Third time lucky

The cards finally land in the right places for the Liberals in South Australia, despite an overall swing in Labor’s favour.

The Liberals have finally managed to piece together a victory in South Australia, at the third successive election at which they won the statewide two-party vote. The election was actually won for them in the redistribution, which made four seats won by Labor in 2014 notionally Liberal, with only one going the other way. If the 2014 election had been held under the new boundaries, the Liberals would have made it to 25 seats out of 47 (albeit with a 0.1% margin in Newland), which as likely as not is where this election will leave them when the dust settles.

The Liberals only went into the election with 20 of the 22 seats they won in 2014, having suffered two defections to the cross bench: Troy Bell in Mount Gambier, who was re-elected yesterday as an independent, and Duncan McFetridge in Morphett, whose seat has reverted to the Liberals (UPDATE: Make that 19 – I forgot about Martin Hamilton-Smith, whose seat of Waite went back to the Liberals with his retirement). To the resulting base of 21 seats, the Liberals have certain gains in two of the four notionally Liberal seats, Colton and Elder. They are ahead in a third, Newland, and are likely to go down to the wire in the fourth, Mawson. With a further gain likely in the new seat of King, they appear all but certain of making it to a majority.

However, the Liberals have once again struggled to gain decisive swings against sitting Labor members. The three actual or potential Labor casualties were all in notional Liberal seats, and there were swings in favour of two of them, albeit insufficient ones. The other very likely gain, the northern Adelaide seat of King, was a new electorate contested by a neophyte Labor candidate. Furthermore, Labor may make a gain in the seat of Adelaide, where Liberal member Rachel Sanderson ended the night 67 votes ahead.

Of the 33 seats where Liberal-versus-Labor counts have been conducted, there has been an average swing to Labor of 1.8%. This suggests the Liberals’ final two-party vote will be around 51.2%, which is slightly lower than they scored at both the last two losing elections. The distortion created by SA Best may have been a bit of a factor here, but the effect overall was modest: Labor scored an average 2.0% swing out of 24 seats where SA Best had candidates, and 1.3% out of nine seats where they didn’t.

SA Best wasn’t the only minor party who had a disappointing night. Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives has flunked its first electoral test, going backwards compared with Family First’s performance in 2014 and almost certainly losing one of its two upper house seats. Its vote fell an average 2.7% out of the 33 lower house seats it contested, reducing to 1.1% in the four seats where they didn’t face competition from SA Best. The Greens vote was little changed, dropping by 0.2% overall, but increasing by 0.6% in the 11 seats that were uncontested by SA Best. The party will clearly retain its upper house seat, maintaining its representation of two seats overall.

There are five seats I have identified as potentially in doubt where I will continue to monitor late counting, which will advance substantially when pre-polls are counted on Monday. If the Liberals win all of these seats, which they certainly may, they will end up with 26 seats. That still leaves open a worst case scenario of 21 seats, with Labor on 22, three independents and one SA Best – hence my suggestion last night that Jay Weatherill was a little too quick to concede. I’m probably being generous to Labor in rating Newland and King in doubt, but with so much of the vote yet to be counted, prudence would seem in order.

The chart above shows the two-party booth votes on the left, which are all that has been counted to this point; projected declaration votes in the centre, based on the difference between booth and non-booth results at the 2014 election; and the sum of the two to produce projected totals on the right. Only the first of these is provided in the case of Heysen, where the Liberals are fighting SA Best, for whom 2014 offers no guide. It’s usually the way of late counting that the Liberals are favoured, and that’s what’s anticipated here of the three seats where they are narrowly ahead. Furthermore, it’s projected that Labor’s narrow lead in Mawson will disappear, although the 2014 precedent may not be a guide here, as Labor’s ground game would have been lacking in much of the electorate last time.

In the Legislative Council, Labor and Liberal have a clear three quotas each with SA Best on two, with the remaining three seats likely to land with the Greens and the number four candidates of Liberal and Labor. Australian Conservatives is on 3.6% of the statewide vote, compared with 4.4% for Family First in 2014, which no doubt reflects the success of SA Best in scoring 19% of the vote. This amounts to 0.43 quotas for the party’s struggling incumbent, Robert Brokenshire, compared with the 0.56 quotas that will be left to Labor after the election of its third candidate. To elevate past Labor from losing twelfth place to winning eleventh, Brokenshire has to close a gap of 1% in late counting and preferences, the most likely path to which is a weak showing for Labor in late counting. Preferences are unlikely to feature, as neither Liberal nor the Greens will be fully excluded at the point where either Brokenshire or Labor’s number four are excluded.

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.

126 comments on “Third time lucky”

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  1. For Teague to get from 40% primary to 52% 2PP means he is getting a lot of preference flows from the ALP and/or Greens.

    The Greens HTV card had Teague above Illingworth even though Illingworth (IIRC) is a bit of a greenie.

    I shall restrain myself from commenting further but those working in the field of environmental protection whose funding will dry up and whose jobs will be under-threat perhaps would be a little less reticent.

  2. Wewantpaul

    If you are really a tax accountant, I would find it very surprising thAt you seem to think the imputation credit method of removing double taxation of dividend Was a tax break. Because it should have been explained in university to under graduates

  3. Well, in the end, this election, that was supposed to break open the two-party system, ended up being pretty conventional: a 16-year-old government proved that it’s next to impossible to keep defying the rules of electoral gravity, and we’ve seen an orderly transfer of power from one of the major parties to the other.

    Meanwhile, the new kid on the block, SA Best, which started with hopes of gaining a significant amount of seats, enough to hold the balance of power, or even win the most seats and maybe even win government, ended up winning none. While they did pick up a significant vote, preferential voting has meant that this was basically recycled back to the majors.

    SA Best look to have picked up a few seats in the Upper House, the traditional place for minor party representation in Australia, but this is not especially groundbreaking. It will be interesting to see if Sharkie can hold Mayo at the next Federal election, or whether the Xenophon phenomenon has peaked.

    The Libs probably deserve to gain office, given that they have won the two-party vote at the last three state elections. However, this is not an especially impressive victory, eking out just enough votes in the right places to win overall, but probably an insufficient mandate to really put their stamp on things. At this stage, you’d probably put a small wager on them being oncers.

  4. Matt:

    When was the last time a four-term Government – State, Territory or Federal – won a swing towards them of any level? It was Menzies in 1958, AFAIK, and he was greatly helped by Evatt’s increasingly erratic and inept leadership, as well as the as well as the ALP-DLP split which had torn Labor apart.

    Labor under Keating 1993. Also if we include more than four terms then Liberals under Holt 1966 and in Queensland, Nationals under Joh 1974, 1980 and 1986.

  5. And the business model of The Motley Fool is?

    So vested interest?

    I always adopted the view that the personal wealth of any individual is hard won over time and that I would never presume to offer advice as to what any person should do with that wealth, and particularly for a fee

    So , and despite requests, I have never presumed to give investment advice or introduce anyone to investment advice

    In my view you are on a loss to nothing if you do

    So much for The Motley Fool

    We are seeing the answer on Mortgage Brokers before the Royal Commission

    The Financial Advice industry will be next

  6. Hugoaugogo:

    At this stage, you’d probably put a small wager on them being oncers.

    I tend to feel it might be a slight advantage to have a moderate win rather than a thumping one – at least this way the number of loose cannons on the backbench is minimised! On the other hand it reduces the sophomore surge advantage at the first re-election.

  7. It will be interesting to see how long they get to fix every problem in the state and make us an economic powerhouse, considering the overarching narrative has been about every problem we face being down to the Labor government. Look forward to some searching and insightful analysis from the readers of Adelaide Now seeing as they finally have their way.

  8. It would seem that the Liberal newcomers are young and moderate. If Leon Bignall does not make it in Mawson, it’s hard to see any marginal seat that Labor would be favoured to win next time if economic events suit the Marshall Government.

    Remember, Labor had the advantage of being in office this time. Next time it will be on its own and, as always, lacking the financial resources of the capitalists.

  9. Bill Shorten can take some solace away from this: You can be as appealing as jock itch and do sweet F all and still get elected if the circumstances favour you.

  10. Looking forward to Marshall’s magic pudding trick by which he cuts payroll tax, boosts job and grows the economy while reducing the deficit and providing cheaper electricity.

    Stand by for an announcement that Labor lied about our budgetry position, which is actually in crisis and so makes it impossible to implement Liberal promises at this stage.


    “It’s about surviving in these parts,” she says. “People do what they have always done – get by. Nothing has changed in centuries, only the asphalt. The trees are where they have always been, and the marshes, villages, too. Everything is in ruins.”

    “Tell me what exactly there is to vote for?” she says.

  12. @Frickeg – I totally agree with you on the need to reform SA HA with proportional representation. The only difference I would recommend is to abolish the upper house altogether – which while definitely sensible for retaining at a federal level, is of little value at state level. 47 HA seats + 22 LC seats = 69. Abolish LC & reform HA with 70 seats total. Implement 5 member Hare-Clark electorates (Robson Rotation optional) with 16.6% quota for total of 14 electorates (one or two additional electorates can be created if desirable).

    The other option would be ten, 7 member electorates. That would work as well and would also be more proportional with an electoral quota of 12.5%.

    A good system for SA, I would argue.

  13. Wow, Toorak Toff thinks Labor might not win the next SA election. What a troll, amirite? (Honestly, this is why I hardly ever post here. One doesn’t expect it all to be sunshine and roses, but really, leave that kind of thing to News Ltd commenters.)

    As for the single-member seats issue, the fact is that SA has produced results where government was formed by a party that lost the popular two-party-preferred vote in five of the last ten elections (three were minority governments, which is a mitigating factor, but even if we discount those, 20% is still WAY too high). Partly, of course, it is the geographic concentration of conservative voters (in each case it was the Liberals who missed out), but part of it is also the fact that smaller electorates mean it’s easier for results to fail to reflect the general mood. And, I mean, there have been plenty of messy results in the past. Look at the first few NT elections!

    In any case, I think we are in agreement that this is not an acceptable system.

  14. Mrodowicz. I like that proposal. It takes the best of both worlds of my competing 5×10 and 7×7 proposals (I prefer 7 per district myself as 5 can quite often just end up being hogged by the 2 parties.)

    And I agree that if you have a HoA proportionally elected (especially like that) and governments most often being minority governments needing crossbench support in the HoA, then a house of legislative review is unnecessary.

  15. @Kevin Bonham: I bow to your superor expertise. I still maintain that Governments find it harder to win re-eleftions as time goes on.

  16. @Rational Leftist – Thanks. Nice to see my proposal getting some love here. I would recommend this kind of model for all states/territories (ACT already has this). The only major decisions that would need to made by each state is whether to go with 5, 7 or 9 member electorates or some combination thereof. The best outcome would depend on the respective states geographic size, population and desirable number of M.P’s. I should also mention, that I’d be dead on opposed to abolishing any state upper house, unless it was accompanied by some reasonable PR reform of the lower house.

  17. Matt:

    I still maintain that Governments find it harder to win re-eleftions as time goes on.

    That much is true, though historically not as steeply so as might be thought. Lately governments just don’t survive past 15 years but once it was common for them to.

  18. Good morning Dawn Patrollers.

    Mark Kenny on the evaporation of Xenophon’s dream.
    Republican senators have warned Trump against firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller and said he must let federal investigators looking into Russian meddling in the US election do their jobs.
    Vehicles older than 15 years – many lacking lifesaving airbags or electronic stability control – should be phased out to reduce road deaths, according to a leading non-profit safety ratings group.
    The Black Wiggle has blamed sabotage for the loss in Batman.
    Michelle Grattan writes that Batman is a strong victory for Shorten, but he still has a selling job on tax move.
    Jess Irvine tells us why it’s finally time to ban mortgage broker commissions.
    CBA endured a torrid opening week of hearings at the Hayne royal commission and the financial giant’s chief executive has warned staff it is not likely to get any better when the inquiry resumes this morning.
    The SMH reviews the weekend’s electoral results and concludes that the centre is holding firm.
    Richo reckons Steven Marshall pulled off a Bradbury. Google.
    And PvO explains how the weekend proved how difficult it is for minor parties to challenge the two party system. Google.
    Mark Butler in this op-ed tells us how Ged Kearney’s resounding win in Batman – and Jay Weatherill’s gutsy election campaign in South Australia – were powerful demonstrations of Labor’s willingness to take on all parties in a contest over values.

  19. Section 2 . . .

    Laura Tingle concludes her contribution in this subject by saying that both major parties could do well to now reassess just how much work they have to do in trying to appease the further left and further right of their bases, and concentrate on the centre they both need to win to nab the next federal election. Google.
    The Berejiklian government has made changes to the leadership at the very top of the department responsible for water policy following scandals over the administration of water in New South Wales.
    Labor’s dividend tax policy is smart, bold – and dangerous says Greg Jericho.
    Facebook is under scrutiny for a massive data breach by a consultant linked to Donald Trump’s election campaign.
    Darren Rexter examines the ways in which the privatisation of the Commonwealth Employment Service has failed job seekers and employers alike.,11304
    A pretty good contribution from Urban Wronski this week.
    The ACT Greens will move to make abortions more accessible and affordable, with a bill to make it legal for doctors to prescribe RU486 in the territory.
    Why Japan’s smoking laws are stuck ‘in the last century’.
    Stung by accusations of spreading “fake news”, the Vatican has released the complete letter by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI in which the former pontiff criticises the direction the church is taking under his successor, Pope Francis.

    Cartoon Corner – such a paucity today!
    David Rowe and some political road kill.

    Sean Leahy on White House job creation.

    Jon Kudelka with the Greens’ Batman post mortem.
    More in here.

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