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”

  1. Morning all. The Liberals winning was on the cards, but there are several silver linings in this cloud for Labor. Weatheral’s campaign was good. A swing to a 16 year incumbent government is remarkable. And he left with credibility intact. Health really did cost him the election, because Marshall was uninspiring.

    And as dusk descends on the SA economy again, Marshall has to deliver some completely unfunded promises including tax cuts. He will either make unpopular cuts or fail.

    Turfing Brokenshire in the upper house was a bonus. Bernardis conservatives and the religious fundies are the same tiny group.

  2. Advertiser headline Monday;
    Marshall Brought the Rain – or – Marshall brings long Winter?

    The ALP in SA slowly moved to the right regarding funding for the environment and the restructure (National Parks no longer focus on conservation) and job losses in various environment related departments (try getting hold of some from the Native Veg Council unless they are fining you – and only then if you are low hanging fruit). That didnt stop the Libs complaining about largess within those state departments and other areas like use of Council rates to fund environment grants.

    Marshall will tighten the screws further. It is an easy target and popular with not just his base. I know Greenies who complain about paying the NRM levy.

  3. Having worked hard in Florey, I’m very excited to have see such a hard working and local MP re-elected like Frances Bedford.

    Overall losing the election sucks, but the Liberal Party were given seats without needing too try much.

    Labor have a very good base to work from in the future. Hoping to see the Conservatives lose an upper house seat.

    Will the Liberals learn that people want a reasonable centrist Government? Well functioning services, health, education, transport etc. Or will they focus on the big end of town? It remains to be seen…

  4. Could we see a Queens land coming on. Liberals tried to sell or privatise assets and cut too much leading to a hung parliament then a finally a Labour outright victory.

  5. Well, the people of Sth Australia have again proven how backward and strange they are by rejecting a clean energy future and embracing a corporatist neo-lib future. Foolish people. Jay is welcome to come to the great progressive state of Victoria.

    Sad the Greens Party have been the victims of a treasonous small group of disenfranchised ‘supporters’ in Batman, but congratulations to Ged on a famous victory despite being weighed down by Shifty Bill. Ged will further the leftist agenda in the ALP both economically and socially and that’s a good thing.

  6. ** Between Batman and SA are we seeing autumn for The Greens? **
    I would certainly prefer to see them within the ALP influencing debate and involved in policy formation. I found the Green candidates (and quite a few ALP ones too) in this election rather uninspiring.

  7. **Labor have a very good base to work from in the future**

    With a primary in the very low 30’s I disagree. They have a lot of work to do.

  8. BK: The Batman loss is definitely a blow, but the Greens were never going do well in the SA election. Weatherill is very popular with progressives and SA Best swept up the “anyone but the majors” protest vote, leaving nothing but the core rusted-ones. I’m actually surprised they only recieved a 0.2 swing against them, considering how utterly invisible they seemed to be during the campaign.

  9. Rex Douglas says:
    Sunday, March 18, 2018 at 9:15 am
    Well, the people of Sth Australia have again proven how backward and strange they are by rejecting a clean energy future and embracing a corporatist neo-lib future.

    The people of SA are anything but “backward and strange”. In a democracy, it makes no sense for a defeated party to find fault with the voters.

    Among the immediately striking data points from the SA election is the repeated dismal performance of the Gs. Only 1/16 voters will assign their primary vote to the Gs. They must surely begin to question their electoral relevance and the merit of their incessant, loudly broadcast anti-Labor messaging. Clearly, voters in SA see no role at all for the Gs in the Lower House.

  10. @SK – 9:31

    Given that SABest was polling around 18-19% in the seats it was contesting – drawing from both Labor and Liberal then the primary votes of both majors was suppressed.

    As Xenophon continues to implode Labor’s primary vote will get a ‘free’ 10% bounce. Labor having a primary vote in the 40s – with the Green monster on their left flank accounting for another 8-10% is a pretty darn healthy base to start to rebuild.

    Given that labor will end up with a wing of nearly 2% – and will finish within 1000 votes in half a dozen liberal electorates I reckon Jay must be tempted to have another crack at the galactly unimpressive Marshall in 4 years time.

  11. The people of SA are anything but “backward and strange”. In a democracy, it makes no sense for a defeated party to find fault with the voters.

    I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with briefly here.

    I’m disappointed with Weatherill’s loss, for much the same reasons as Rex, but blaming the voters is never a winning strategy. And it’s particularly odd to do so given the circumstances of this particularly loss, where there was actually a minor swing to Labor, and the result was basically a continuation of the status quo, with the change of government more a consequence of the redistribution than the votes. By all accounts, Labor should have lost in 2014 – that the electorate weren’t coming after them with baseball bats four years later is mildly remarkable.

  12. Interesting outcome, with a swing to the incumbent government after distribution of notional redistribution of preferences, carrying plenty of “It’s Time” baggage.

    So now we have a neophyte wet Premier with no executive experience in government, a non progressive agenda and a 1 seat majority.. what could possibly go wrong?

  13. I agree with Scott, it doesn’t look like a painful loss at all, often after being in power for a long term you get savagely thrown out, like we saw in NSW and QLD.

    Not often a government losses with a swing towards them. SA Labor will have an opportunity to reflect and review, and change their policies where needed, which can be harder to do when in power.

    The Libs will have to negotiate with center (SAB) in the upper house at least, so they will be limited in what they can do (and undo). Its hard to imaging radical policy changes.

  14. Asha Leu @ #14 Sunday, March 18th, 2018 – 10:15 am

    briefly:

    The people of SA are anything but “backward and strange”. In a democracy, it makes no sense for a defeated party to find fault with the voters.

    I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with briefly here.

    I’m disappointed with Weatherill’s loss, for much the same reasons as Rex, but blaming the voters is never a winning strategy. And it’s particularly odd to do so given the circumstances of this particularly loss, where there was actually a minor swing to Labor, and the result was basically a continuation of the status quo, with the change of government more a consequence of the redistribution than the votes. By all accounts, Labor should have lost in 2014 – that the electorate weren’t coming after them with baseball bats four years later is mildly remarkable.

    I’m not saying it from a Labor point of view, I’m saying it from a humanist point of view. Jay’s Party offered a clean progressive future and the backward SA population rejected it for neo-lib trickle down corporatist idiocy. Foolish people.

  15. Asha Leu says:
    Sunday, March 18, 2018 at 9:44 am

    I’m actually surprised they only recieved a 0.2 swing against them, considering how utterly invisible they seemed to be during the campaign.

    Likewise in the WA State election campaign last year, the Gs had almost nothing to say. They have to be among the laziest outfits I’ve ever seen. They are content to try to siphon votes from Labor by running gesture politics around a token few national themes. They are as flimsy as the other pop-voices, such as the Shooters, the Lib-Dems and ON.

    After Labor win the federal election it will become clear that Adani will not go ahead and both Manus and Nauru will be emptied of their captives. This will deprive the Gs of their “causes”. There will be no reason for Greens. They will likely go the way of the DLP and the Democrats.

  16. I don’t buy the ‘it’s time’ factor for one minute. It’s a nonsense when considering elections are about future policy. Foolish backward strange people in SA.

  17. AE:

    Given that labor will end up with a wing of nearly 2% – and will finish within 1000 votes in half a dozen liberal electorates I reckon Jay must be tempted to have another crack at the galactly unimpressive Marshall in 4 years time.

    I have a lot of time for Weatherill. While I’m not exactly very familiar with the intricacies of SA politics from all the way up here in QLD, he has always struck me as a very competent premier, who has shown considerable bravery with his energy policies.

    But if the Libs have indeed got a majority, or take office in minority, he has to resign. It’d be a joke if he continued on as opposition leader,and completely undermine what you’d have to think would otherwise be a decent chance of taking back government in 2022, given Marshall’s unpopularity and general mediocrity. After 16 years in office, SA Labor needs to start afresh.

  18. Meanwhile, Daniel Andrews is getting on with the job of preparing our road infrastructure for the clean energy vehicle boom just around the corner.

    Premier @DanielAndrewsMP announces the $711m Stage 2 of the Monash Freeway has been fastracked. Includes cash from a $111 million saving from stage 1. 36km of extra lanes. #springst @abcmelbourne— Richard Willingham (@rwillingham) March 17, 2018

  19. Rex Douglas says:
    Sunday, March 18, 2018 at 10:24 am

    I don’t buy the ‘it’s time’ factor for one minute. It’s a nonsense when considering elections are about future policy. Foolish backward strange people in SA.

    93.4% of SA voters chose a party other than the Gs for their PV. Almost no-one listens to the Gs even on those rare occasions when they have something to say.

    This all suggests that it is not the people who are “foolish backward and strange”. It is the Gs.

  20. It’s just occurred to me that if the Fairness Clause had done its job in 2010 and Isobel Redmond had become Premier, there’s a reasonable chance that we would have been welcoming a new Labor government last night!

  21. Rex Douglas says:
    Sunday, March 18, 2018 at 10:37 am
    ANTONBRUCKNER11 @ #22 Sunday, March 18th, 2018 – 10:34 am

    Rex – Sounds like you’re trying to claim “victory” in Batman. You are a hoot.
    Leftist Ged replacing Feeney is a win. That’s inarguable.

    A servant of working people and a leader of Labor has defeated a sham Leftie/ Liberal surrogate. The candidate of the bourgeoisie lost. Excellent.

  22. Sorry, Rex is being silly here. General elections swing on so much more than single issues. While Labor were making great strides in many areas and it’s very disappointing, they weren’t perfect. “It’s Time” is a legitimate reason for electorates to change governments. It’s the democratic way, and inoculates our system against corruption and cronyism.

  23. Anyone care to speculate on the chances of Weatherall hanging around and having another tilt? Only 53? Obviously it will depend on the mood in his party, which must be positive. I get the feeling Jay is an “unfinished business…” kinda guy. Or Labor will send him to Federal Parliament at the next election?

  24. shiftaling @ #29 Sunday, March 18th, 2018 – 10:49 am

    Sorry, Rex is being silly here. General elections swing on so much more than single issues. While Labor were making great strides in many areas and it’s very disappointing, they weren’t perfect. “It’s Time” is a legitimate reason for electorates to change governments. It’s the democratic way, and inoculates our system against corruption and cronyism.

    There’s no logical ‘time’ to vote in a corporatist neo-lib party to Govt.

  25. ANTONBRUCKNER11 @ #30 Sunday, March 18th, 2018 – 10:54 am

    Anyone care to speculate on the chances of Weatherall hanging around and having another tilt? Only 53? Obviously it will depend on the mood in his party, which must be positive. I get the feeling Jay is an “unfinished business…” kinda guy. Or Labor will send him to Federal Parliament at the next election?

    He should get the hell out of SA given the backward people want a neo-lib Govt.

  26. Rex is here saying positive things about Labor after what must have been a disappointing night, and you’re all still sticking the boot in about the Greens. Maybe lighten up a tad?

    This is a disappointing result for Labor but as a fairly narrow loss leads to a deal of hope for a swift renewal. This is especially true as unlike in, say, NSW or even Tasmania, SA Labor looks to remain in pretty good shape from this distance. Of course, in 2022 there will more than likely be a federal Labor government to contend with, so it may be more of an uphill battle by then.

    As for the Greens, I’d say this result is actually pretty encouraging. They had literally nothing to gain in this election (no lower house seats even remote possibilities; likewise a second LC seat); their only goal was to hold their upper house seat and they’ve done that, and not seen much of a drop in their vote. Their opportunities to expand in this state are pretty limited, but they’ve kept the status quo, and faced with a major new non-extremist third party they barely dropped at all (from a low base, admittedly).

    Robert Brokenshire’s loss is truly a lovely silver lining.

  27. Rex Douglas says:
    Sunday, March 18, 2018 at 10:56 am

    He should get the hell out of SA given the backward people want a neo-lib Govt.

    It makes sense that a Tory would want to see a very effective and capable, well-liked, brave and savvy Labor leader go into self-imposed exile. Tories want to disable Labor wherever possible.

    Let’s hope that Jay Weatherill continues to find ways to serve Labor and the people of SA.

  28. Frickeg says:
    Sunday, March 18, 2018 at 11:08 am
    Rex is here saying positive things about Labor

    Really? He offered a backhanded compliment to Kearney. He has nothing good to say about Labor at any time. He wants to see Labor diminished, as is the case with all Tories.

  29. Well done to the ABC for a good coverage and panel for SA election. Good discussion and little of the hyper partisan silliness that party representatives seem to engage in at times. And well done to William for coverage. WB is right – there are 3 or 4 seats worth watching with 20% or more of votes still to count.

  30. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/17/uk-finance-power-water-on-high-alert-threat-russian-cyber-reprisal-grows

    Russia looking for trouble!!

    Banks, energy and water companies are on maximum alert over the threat of a serious cyber-attack from Moscow as concern continues over the safety of Russian exiles in the UK.

    Fears that Russia will target Britain’s critical national infrastructure have prompted round-the-clock threat assessments by the UK’s financial sector, energy firms and GCHQ, the UK’s largest intelligence agency, along with the security services MI5 and MI6.

    The Bank of England, major financiers, including Lloyds, and organisations such as Water UK are working with the government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to assess the next move from Moscow following the murder of Nikolai Glushkov, 68, and the Salisbury chemical attack.

    Britons back May over Corbyn to handle Russia row, poll finds

    Scotland Yard on Saturday issued a renewed appeal for information for anyone who may have seen a burgundy red BMW owned by Sergei Skripal, 66, the former Russian spy who was found unconscious on 4 March in Salisbury along with his daughter, Yulia. The pair were poisoned with a nerve agent and remain critical but stable in hospital.

  31. Frickeg I’m not one to put the boot in and I think the general treatment of Rex here is disgraceful. But because an election is won on a slim margin by a relative moderate on the conservative side, with an extremely favourable redistribution as wind in their sails, he is coming around here calling the people of SA backwards and strange in the most peculiarly pejorative manner.

    It’s just possible that, for all of the good work, some of Labor’s missteps in government cost them some of the few hundreds or thousands of votes that might have made this virtually unwinnable election theirs.

    Of all the states in Australia, SA is one of the more politically progressive. So the other side won an election, so what? It happens from time to time. No reason to tip ordure over the electorate as a whole.

  32. Bonza, an extremely unlikely chance of the Liberals losing at least 3 of Adelaide, Newland, Mawson and Heysen
    Adelaide and Newland are unlikely to be won by Labor.
    In Adelaide Rachael Sanderson did better in the pre-polls at the 2014 than the ordinary votes with 54.5 compared to 51.6, which improved her position by over 500 votes. I expect her to improve her position with pre-polls being counted, perhaps by not the same amount but by at least half that amount.

    SA Best has a bit better chance in Heysen, but they need to get to second, which is doubtful and beat the Liberals which they are not doing at the moment so it is still a unlikely. They need to do better in pre-polls, it might happen seeing SA Best support fell through the campaign. However the combination of Labor with Greens preferences holding second in the 3CP count could still be a big problem.

    Mawson is very much in doubt, it has no clear favourite.

  33. Rex: ” but congratulations to Ged on a famous victory despite being weighed down by Shifty Bill. Ged will further the leftist agenda in the ALP both economically and socially and that’s a good thing.” (Clearly not a fan of Shorten. Not a crime.)

    Rex: “There’s no reason to shift support to the SA Greens given SA Labor had a progressive clean energy agenda. Basic logic.”

    Rex: “Meanwhile, Daniel Andrews is getting on with the job of preparing our road infrastructure for the clean energy vehicle boom just around the corner.”

    Sounds pretty positive to me.

    I don’t post much, but I’ve been reading this site a long time. I don’t agree with everything Rex posts here, or even on this very thread (blaming the voters is never a good thing), but the vitriol thrown at him has always seemed to me very overblown. Currently on the Batman thread he’s being roasted for not showing up to take the abuse. There’s a fine line between robust debate and bullying, and to be honest, I feel like people are ending up squarely on the wrong side of that line here.

  34. briefly your view about the Greens, at least in SA, are just silly. The Greens in the Legislative Council have made a positive contribution to the Labor Governments over the last few years. On environmental, planning, economic direction and many social issues.

    With a few exceptions Labor and Greens exchanged preferences directly. Despite most voters not taking HTV cards from any group the preference exchange from Labor and Greens voters was pretty high. A big majority of Labor voters where I scrutineered voted Greens second.

    The positive profile of the Greens in SA was also reflected in quite a few Liberal and Conservatives voters giving Greens a preference ahead of the other. And while the voters preference swapping directly between Labor to Liberal and Liberal to Labor seemed to be at a usual 10-20%, the votes I observed had more Liberals giving a preference to Greens rather than Labor ahead of Conservatives. The Liberal HTV had greens behind Labor. I haven’t seen that pattern so strongly in previous elections. And that is not because the Greens are seen as “green tories” – it is because (some) voters have seen the contribution made by the Greens in SA.

  35. Frickeg – I really don’t want to waste any of my day on Rex, but he was really trying to compliment Kearney to carry on his jihad against Shorten. Then, with typical tory panache he calls the electorate “backward” because they don’t agree with him.

  36. Frickeg says:
    Sunday, March 18, 2018 at 11:24 am

    Rex: “Meanwhile, Daniel Andrews is getting on with the job of preparing our road infrastructure for the clean energy vehicle boom just around the corner.”

    Sounds pretty positive to me.

    Don’t worry. As the Victorian election approaches, Rex will find imaginative new ways to sledge Labor and promote Labor’s reactionary opponents. 🙂

  37. Labor’s two best campaigners on the ground, Leon Bignell and Jo Chapley, have done wondrously well given the great chunks of tiger country which the boundaries commission added to Mawson and Adelaide.

    Jo would be a fantastic candidate for federal Adelaide – though we’ll know soon if that will be possible for Labor to win on redrawn boundaries.

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