South Australian election minus four weeks

Regional seat polling, an eleventh hour withdrawal by Labor’s lead upper house candidate, signs of improving Labor morale, and more besides.

The South Australian election campaign is now officially on, with the Premier visiting the Governor yesterday to advise the issuing of the writs. Here are some doings since this blog’s last South Australian instalment:

• Thursday’s Advertiser had two ReachTEL polls from the electorates of Mount Gambier and MacKillop in the state’s south-eastern corner. The Mount Gambier poll turned up a remarkably strong result for Troy Bell, who won the seat for the Liberals from an independent in 2014, then became an independent himself when charges of mishandling public funds were laid against him in August. Bell was credited with 36.3% of the primary vote, well clear of Liberal candidate Craig Marsh on 28.5%, with Labor on 13.3%, a then-unspecified SA Best candidate on 11.3%, others on 5.8%, and 4.7% undecided. According to Daniel Wills of The Advertiser, the result matches up with “steady rumblings coming from Mount Gambier for some time”. The poll was conducted on Tuesday from a sample of 665.

• In MacKillop, which is being vacated by the retirement of Liberal member Mitch Williams, ReachTEL had Liberal candidate Nick McBride on 56.7%, with SA Best on 15.8% and Labor on 12.1%. The sample for the MacKillop poll was 615; it too was conducted on Tuesday.

• Labor is without a lead upper house candidate after Leesa Vlahos announced on Friday she would not contest the election. Vlahos resigned from cabinet in September, ostensibly for health reasons, but following a patient abuse scandal at the Oakden aged care facility that embroiled her as Disabilities Minister. The scheduled publication of an Independent Commission Against Corruption report on management at Oakden for February 26 loomed as a major campaign headache for Labor, and Vlahos’s resignation announcement acknowledged that her candidacy “could become a distraction at this most important time”. Vlahos has been member for the lower house seat of Taylor since 2010, and was set to move to the upper house in preselection arrangements arising from the redistribution.

• The vacancy at the top of the Labor upper house ticket is reserved for the Right faction, which appears unsure as to whether it should promote its fourth-placed candidate, Clair Scriven, or bring in a newcomer. Tom Richardson at InDaily reports it is deemed necessary that the nominee have a regional background, which Scriven is said to have through connections to Mount Gambier. Others in the picture are “Emily Bourke, who works in the Premier’s office and has links to the Yorke Peninsula, and Lucy Pilkington, a former media adviser to Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis who hails from Naracoorte, and whose brother Ben Hood, ironically, was at one point in the mix as a potential Liberal candidate in Mount Gambier”.

• SA Best now has candidates in thirty-five seats, of which twenty are Liberal seats in post-redistribution terms, compared with fourteen for Labor, plus independent-held Mount Gambier. Pointing to the imbalance between Liberal and Labor seats, Steven Marshall accused Nick Xenophon of targeting the Liberals ahead of a post-election deal with Labor, to which Xenophon responded by initiating defamation proceedings against him.

InDaily reports that Labor believes the SA Best disturbance is indeed opening new opportunities in Liberal seats. Newly added to the Labor’s list of target seats are Adelaide and Black, the notionally Liberal seat of Colton, and even Hartley and Steven Marshall’s seat of Dunstan, where I’m told a Labor internal poll showed nothing in it.

The Advertiser reports Labor will direct preferences to Liberal ahead of SA Best in 23 seats, vice-versa in another 23, and run a split ticket in all-important Hartley. However, no decision has been made as to which parties will be favoured in which seats.

InDaily reports the Australian Conservatives now have candidates for thirty-three seats, after saying at first they would be limited to ten to fifteen. The party’s state leader, Dennis Hood, spoke of “an extraordinary number of people coming forward”.

InDaily reports Campbelltown deputy mayor Marijka Ryan will join the crowded field in Hartley as an independent. Ryan was until recently a member of both the Liberal Party and Australian Conservatives, and unsuccessfully sought Liberal preselection for Torrens.

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.

24 comments on “South Australian election minus four weeks”

  1. I recall being in Adelaide for the TDU some years back during which time there was a State election

    The Murdoch Advertiser (I think Kenny now of The Australian was there at the time) in an Editorial proudly proclaimed that in 120 years it had only supported a vote for Labor once – and was not supporting them in that election

    In a One paper town, with such media bias it is a tribute to the education of South Australians per se that they reject what Murdoch peddles on a daily basis

    The extension is that any material, including polling from Murdoch should be treated with caution

  2. What we can say about South Australia is that over the past quarter century the % of all enrolled electors not casting a valid vote (headed as X-Valid in table) has not altered significantly. This is in stark contrast to the situation in other states and Federally. South Australia has a much better participation rate, and a lower informal rate of voting than the other jurisdictions.
    Date Voted X-Voted Informal Valid/Roll X-Valid
    11-Dec-93 93.57% 6.43% 3.10% 90.66% 9.34%
    11-Oct-97 91.75% 8.25% 4.04% 88.04% 11.96%
    9-Feb-02 93.59% 6.41% 3.12% 90.67% 9.33%
    18-Mar-06 92.31% 7.69% 3.60% 88.99% 11.01%
    20-Mar-10 92.78% 7.22% 3.33% 89.70% 10.30%
    15-Mar-14 91.94% 8.06% 3.09% 89.10% 10.90%

  3. The Tiser doesn’t really set the tone for reporting in SA. They don’t crusade anything like the DT or Hun. It’s a pretty bland paper.

  4. Why is SA Labor directing preferences to the Libs over SA best in unspecified seats ?

    Unless Labor is getting a quid pro quo on specific seats from the Liberals that doesn’t seem to make any sense at all.

    Generously speaking it looks like an appearance of non-partisanship concerning SAB / Liberals but that’s dumb. Ideologically and practically it is more desirable for Labor to have SAB members than Lib ones unless they think SAB is so incompetent they threaten the state itself , in which case they should always be favouring the Liberals.

  5. The Advertiser has a pro-Liberal bent for sure and its influence is waning, but that’s just a reflection of a trend everywhere where print media is losing its influence.

    As for the concern about the split preferencing, if true, I’ll wait and see where the preferences are. For instance, if Labor are preferencing the Liberals in seats where they’re likely to be in the 2CP (whether v. Libs or SAB) and preferencing SAB in seats where there’s a chance they’ll miss the 2CP, then it’s a good move. But the fact is the Libs are making a lot of noise about SAB and the ALP supporting each other, doing a 47 seat deal would just reinforce that.

    Either way, unless it’s random which seats it’s happening in, it is much more active than the 2016 policy of letting voters decide. If true, of course.

  6. …the Australian Conservatives now have candidates for thirty-three seats, after saying at first they would be limited to ten to fifteen. The party’s state leader, Dennis Hood, spoke of “an extraordinary number of people coming forward”.

    I’m sure all those people coming forward have all been extraordinarily well-vetted and certainly won’t at all turn out to be a rolling convoy of embarrassment for Cory’s party.

  7. Emily Bourke is now confirmed as Leesa Vlahos’ replacement.

    In other news, the Australian a Conservatives got their corflutes up in Stuart before either Liberal (sitting member), Labor or SA Best.

    If this is a sign of how enthusiastic their supporters are and/or how much money they have to play with then we might see an even further erosion of the Liberal PV.

    My guts tell me Dan the Pelikaan is probably safe, but I’m deferring final judgement until we get a little further into the campaign. A boil over (probably of the SA Best variety) would be unexpected, and it would need an awful lot if things to go right (and wrong). Unexpected, but not impossible.

    We’ll see.

  8. caf, even if some do turn out to be an embarrassment (as you’re subtly, or unsubtly, suggesting), what will it matter? They’ll get 3-7% of the vote in most electorates, much of it stolen from the slightly-more-Liberals, and then they’ll funnel most of it back to them. They just provide a mechanism for authoritarian conservatives to send a message to the Liberals while still effectively voting for them. (Different in the Council of course, where they may get their usual one candidate up – but the lead candidate has been pretty well vetted over the years…)

  9. Thanks for the update William. Betting markets are having trouble and the political pundits are having trouble. Interesting times but Labor seem to have their message quite well worked out.

  10. Rational Leftist
    I think you might be wrong on your assessment , where Labor expects the contest to be Lab vs Lib, they should pref SAB (given reciprocity , and the Libs should try for same (with SAB)).

    Lab preferencing Lib where expecting SAB vs Lab is similar but reciprocity is significantly less likely, open ticket in exchange for same likely more palatable but still questionable.

    Where Lib vs SAB, should be preffing SAB (or Lib if genuinely think a party no more distant from them than Libs is too dangerous).

    Can’t see a good argument for a 50/50 state wide split except maybe a dislike of a potential insurgent / upstart battling with political pragmatism. And that’s still not great in terms of respect for actual democracy.

  11. I am pleased to see Weatherall promise to remove level crossing and build the tram lines rather than more costly upgrades of South Road. The latter have cost the demolitio; of many homes and businesses with no obvious development benefit. Whereas development along the tram line extensions has been visibly obvious.

    As for Marshall, business tax cuts and lower service costs? Seriously? How will the first lead to the second? How will tax cuts help any9ne but the owners of small businesses? It will only lead to further PS job cuts. It is the Brown era playbook all over again. Marshall’s promises are a gift to Labor, he is not proposing to do anything.

  12. Given a sufficiently competitive industry , a reduction in costs (tax) for business will lead to a reduction in the cost of the services offered. The question is how many businesses are in such competitive industries vs the reduction in public service / projects required to fund the tax cuts.

  13. Elgaufein

    That was exactly the topic of Alberici’s censored ABC article. The clear evidence is that the loss is (much) greater than the hypothetical gain. If the service is a monopoly the price will not drop. And in a globalised world, any new jobs created are more likely to open in China.

  14. Aha, Alberici’s article… the clearest and most obvious censorship this Government has committed in office.
    Truly, how many rusted-on Coalition voters can deny this reality? How many can dismiss the reality that ABC administrators have become mere puppets of of the Coalition?
    Yet another nail in the construction of the coffin of democracy.

  15. Daniel Wills (The Advertiser politics editor) said on Twitter that Advertiser polling of two seats is going to drop around noon today that’s going to be “uncomfortable reading” for two high-profile MPs.

  16. LEE

    The poll of 520 respondents in Lee shows Mr Mullighan at serious risk of losing to the Liberals.

    Often spoken of as a possible future Labor leader, Mr Mullighan’s primary vote has slid from 42 per cent at the 2014 state election to 34 per cent in the Advertiser-Galaxy poll. That places him second, behind Liberal candidate and West Torrens councillor Steven Rypp on 39 per cent.

    SA Best is on 18% of the vote.

    Galaxy estimates the two-party result at a dead-level 50-50 between Liberal and Labor.


    Galaxy estimates Mr Gardner is up 52-48 on a two-party basis against SA Best in Morialta.

    His primary vote has gone backwards by 15 per cent since the 2014 state election, to 40 per cent. SA Best candidate James Sadler, an education consultant, runs second on 25 per cent.

    Labor is in turn nipping at his heels, with 21 per cent. The survey is of 505 people.

  17. There’s a new factor in this election that sets a precedent for future elections across Australia, particularly for the ABC; and it’s the master stunt man and media darling Nick Xenophon.
    Xenophon has been in politics for 21 years. 1997 to 2007 in the SA Upper House, then the Senate from 2007 until 2017 and now he’s standing for a Lower House seat in SA under the banner of the SA Best Party, run by him and a cohort of three others.
    During the campaign period he’s been in every leadership debate, alongside the Labor Premier and Liberal Opposition Leader. But, why?
    His party holds no seats in the SA parliament.
    He is no longer an MP in any parliament.
    His previous party, the NXT, holds no seats in the SA parliament.
    His position as a “leader” is by virtue of nomination by the media.
    Yet he has no seats and recent polling suggests he may struggle to score barely a handful.
    The Aust’n Conservatives have two Upper House seats, as do the Greens. Dignity for the Disabled has one seat.
    For decades the ABC has had a strict “equal time” policy that dictated the level of coverage given to major and minor parties. That has been ditched in 2018 to give Xenophon leadership status. Why? The ABC has been silent on that.
    To date in the campaign the Xenophon offering has been a succession of publicity events as he named candidates in seats. Similar benign coverage was not afforded to the major parties.
    When he finally stepped up with a policy (Health; asking for a Royal Commission into the system) there was a $2.6bn error it.
    He has now dumped that strategy and has started responding to the media’s issues of the day; today’s it’s ice addicts in Murray Bridge.
    No-one asked him for his reaction to the Barnaby Joyce office-bonk issues (his affair with former employee Jenny Low was revealed in Nov 2017 ).
    No-one has asked him how much parliamentary super he is entitled to or if he is drawing on it now.
    When he claimed that he was lending money to candidates to pay their $20k franchise fee to be an SA Best candidate, no-one asked him how the loans were being organised and secured or whether he had a financial services licence that allowed him to provide credit.
    When the results are in on March 17 and Xenophon is shown as little more than a publicity machine, serious questions should be asked of the media and its fascination with Xenophon.
    The ABC especially stands out and should explain to the Greens, Conservatives and Pauline Hanson’s mob why they are not given equivalent leadership status.
    They should also explain why Xenophon isn’t cross-examined in the same way that other candidates are.
    Ten years ago, The Australian’s Jamie walker saw through the Xenophon facade.
    Walker left for the Brisbane bureau shortly after and he’s sorely missed.

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