South Australia: Cheltenham and Enfield by-elections

By-elections today to pick successors for Jay Weatherill and John Rau, and a general opportunity to discuss South Australian matters if that takes your fancy.

Live commentary

Cheltenham live results page
Enfield live results page

10pm. Final Enfield booth now in on primary and two-party. I gather there are no declaration votes counted on the night.

9.14pm. Back online now. Still one laggard booth in Enfield, but all done in Cheltenham; no declaration votes yet (which are reported as a single lump sum by ECSA, and not broken down by pre-poll, postal and absent).

8.08pm. All booths reported in Cheltenham, but still a bit to come from Enfield. There will be a delay of half an hour or so before I next update the results pages.

7.43pm. Most booths in on the primary vote in Cheltenham, half still to come in Enfield. The situation seems to be that much of the SA Best vote has gone to Labor and the Greens rather than independents, except to an extent in Enfield where Gary Johanson is on nearly 20%.

7.32pm. Three booths in now from Enfield, where Labor’s projected primary vote swing has moderated to 3.9%.

7.24pm. Five booths in now on the primary vote from Cheltenham, still only one from Enfield.

7.19pm. Clearly not going to be much to report here. Labor are looking at primary vote swings of 5% to 10% based on five booths that are in, and have a 75-25 lead over the Liberal Democrats from three booths in Cheltenham.

7.15pm. Results pages are looking good now. There are four booths in on the primary vote in Cheltenham, and Labor’s vote is well up in all of them. One booth in from Enfield, ditto.

7.05pm. Now there are actual results in, I’ve hit a glitch where my booth results display isn’t working. Should be fixed soon enough. The rest of it is working though, and it suggests Labor is handsomely up on the primary vote in both electorates and shouldn’t be troubled in either.

6.40pm. No results yet, but my election results pages are open: Cheltenham and Enfield. ECSA is conducting two-candidate preferred counts between Labor and the Liberal Democrats in Cheltenham, and Labor and independent Gary Johanson in Enfield.

6pm. I have posted profiles for the two by-elections: Cheltenham and Enfield. Live results will be posted on the site from about 6:30pm Adelaide time, which should be good enough since these are suburban electorates with no small booths that report early. My results reporting facility will be drawing the results from the ECSA media feed and calculating booth-matched primary vote swings for Labor and the Greens, which are the only apples-for-apples comparisons that are available in the context of by-elections being forfeited by the Liberals.


There are two state by-elections for traditionally safe Labor seats of Cheltenham and Enfield in South Australia today, following the resignations of former Premier Jay Weatherill and Deputy Premier John Rau. I haven’t been following any of this too closely, but I will have live reporting of the results this evening, and will knock up some electorate profiles later today if I can find the time. The candidates in Enfield include former Port Adelaide Enfield Mayor Gary Johanson, who has made a number of runs for seats in Adelaide’s inner north as an independent, and came within 2.9% when he ran in Port Adelaide at a by-election in February 2012. Labor’s candidates are Joe Szakacs in Chelthenham, secretary of SA Unions, and Andrea Michaels in Enfield, a commercial lawyer, who respectively won preselection with the backing of the Left and the Right.

Other than that, it’s been a long time since there was a thread on South Australia, with Steven Marshall’s government still waiting for its debut published opinion poll almost a year after it came to power at the state election last March. So feel free to use the opportunity of this post to weigh in on state political matters more generally. One point worth discussing might be the question of the looming electoral redistribution – always a matter of great sensitivity in South Australia, particularly with the Labor government’s abolition last term of the contentious “fairness clause”. Daniel Wills of The Advertiser offers an overview of the situation.

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.

43 comments on “South Australia: Cheltenham and Enfield by-elections”

  1. One of the candidates in Enfield is Saru Rana. A Liberal party member who is standing as a ‘Liberal Independent’. I would have thought a candidate would be one thing or the other. Sounds a bit Schrodinger to me.

  2. An opinion poll for SA would be very interesting. Not only because it would reflect the popularity of the Marshall government (or lack thereof), but also on the position of SA First now that Xenophon has gone quiet.

    I have been overseas for 6 months, but I sensed that Marshall was already “on the nose”.
    Comments anyone in SA?

  3. This is an outline link of that Daniel Wills article

    As I understood it, the previous system was unsustainable. The big margins that the Liberals were winning country electorates by created a TPP that was very favourable to the Liberals despite their overall lack of success at a seat-by-seat level. And then the contortions in moving bundaries to try and make this TPP reflect the seat count clearly didn’t work in any case –

    2002 – ALP/Lib TPP = 49.1/50.9, Seats ALP 23, Lib 20 [ratio of cubes rule predicts ALP 22 – Lib 25]
    2006 – ALP/Lib TPP = 56.8/43.2, Seats ALP 28, Lib 15 [ratio of cubes rule predicts ALP 33 – Lib 14]
    2010 – ALP/Lib TPP = 48.4/51.6, Seats ALP 26, Lib 18 [ratio of cubes rule predicts ALP 21 – Lib 26]
    2014 – ALP/Lib TPP = 47.0/53.0, Seats ALP 23, Lib 22 [ratio of cubes rule predicts ALP 19 – Lib 28]

    The change to the system actually gave a more ‘normal’ result

    2018 – ALP/Lib TPP = 48.1/51.9, Seats ALP 19, Lib 25 [ratio of cubes rule predicts ALP 21 – Lib 26]

    The problem for the Liberals is that Labor can win very many seats in Adelaide, many by smallish margins, and so win a majority of seats while the Liberals have these massive majorities in some of the rural electorates that are “wasted” in the sense that all those extra votes still only win one seat.

  4. In response to PaulT… Marshall might lose some gloss by closing a couple of Service SA shopfronts and being tainted by association with the federal Liberal brand. He also wants to increase immigration to SA which may not be a popular stance at the moment, but I’m not hearing anyone griping about him. Maybe everyone is too distracted with the bank circus, house prices, dodgy apartment towers, China, Trump, ScoMo, etc.

  5. The Liberals here, after a very long time in opposition, are doing a steady-as-she-goes style of new Govt, as opposed to ideological shock and awe Abbott/Baird/ Kennett style.
    So not much ”change” happening on the political and poll front I would imagine. The ALP opposition, being in Govt for 16 years, is very sharp.

  6. Regarding the popularity of the state government, I’d say the honeymoon’s over but definitely nothing to worry the Libs. Things have been uneventful and Marshall’s running out of ribbons to cut. I honestly can’t say more without actual polling but the government is definitely not “on the nose” (yet.) Speculating on 2022 at this point would be a fool’s game.

    As for tonight’s results, I expect Labor to win both seats easily. They are pretty safe Labor seats and there’s no reason to believe SA Labor has had any significant fall in primary since the election (I expect the opposite), or that Johanson (or any other indie/3rd party talked up) has had a spike of support (except from migrating Lib voters not having a candidate of their own) – then again, I have been wrong on this front before.

  7. Nothing is happening in SA. I literally didn’t know these by elections were on today until i opened PB. Marshall looks so much like Weatherill no one has noticed we have a new government. Health is still a basket case. In about a year the Libs won’t be able to keep blaming Labor but until then it’s very dull.

  8. Tiser:

    New Labor MP Joe Szakacs claimed victory in the western suburbs seat of Cheltenham vacated by former premier Jay Weatherill, while Labor’s Andrea Michaels has defeated former Port Adelaide Enfield mayor Gary Johanson to win in the northern suburbs seat of Enfield, vacated by former Attorney-General John Rau.

    Mr Szakacs had received a primary vote of 58.8 per cent in Cheltenham when counting of all 11 booths closed on Saturday night.

    With just more than 11,600 votes counted in Enfield — just shy of half of the seat’s enrolled electors — as of 8.15pm, Labor’s Ms Michaels had more than doubled Mr Johanson’s primary vote.

    Financial lawyer Ms Michaels had 48.8 per cent of the primary vote, well ahead of Mr Johanson’s 20.1 per cent. Greens preferences mean Labor claimed victory on Saturday night.

  9. Rational Leftist

    Yes 2022 is a fair way away – and one-term governments are rare (Newman Qld, Baillieu Vic, Giles NT), and the last in SA was Tonkin’s 1979-1982 Liberals. As others here have said, Marshall is quite smart to keep a low profile while his Federal colleagues self-destruct. But nevertheless I think in three years time Labor could be in a reasonable position to win – most of those one term governments came after a long fairly succesful Labor term where the “It’s time” meme finally caught up with them. But in each case Labor bounced back quickly to regain power.

    So a good time for some renewal with these by-election wins, then build a solid policy platform to challenge in 2022, hopefully in the same year that a Federal Labor government is facing re-election.

  10. Turnout also looks to be good for a pretty much one horse race. Libs did well to save their money and hide what would have been a very poor result.

  11. I am actually happy this was a boring, straightforward and entirely predictable by-election. Nobody’s leadership was in question, there’s no crystal ball-gazing, just a straightforward constitutional process. Best of luck to both new members. I suspect that Michaels won’t be far away from the frontbench with her credentials.

    I am sure the usual hacks will dedicate space in their political statements, newspaper articles or social media/forum posts to dissection of the results and tell us “what they really mean” but really, there’s no bigger picture tonight. It was just a formality.

  12. Yes 2022 is a fair way away – and one-term governments are rare (Newman Qld, Baillieu Vic, Giles NT), and the last in SA was Tonkin’s 1979-1982 Liberals. As others here have said, Marshall is quite smart to keep a low profile while his Federal colleagues self-destruct. But nevertheless I think in three years time Labor could be in a reasonable position to win – most of those one term governments came after a long fairly succesful Labor term where the “It’s time” meme finally caught up with them. But in each case Labor bounced back quickly to regain power.

    Absolutely. And if there’s one thing I can say to boost Labor confidence is that, post-playmander, the Liberals have only ever won re-election once (1997) and that was going into the election with a landslide majority (36/47 seats) and coming out the other side as a minority/bare majority (23-24/47 seats – depending on whether you count “independent liberal” as a crossbencher or not.) And mentioning Tonkin, it should be pointed out that his government was non-controversial and governed from the centre but still couldn’t get re-elected, so there’s a lot of hope that, even if the state isn’t angry at Marshall in 2022, Labor could still get enough votes back to take government again.

  13. The ALP are very likely to be the Commonwealth Government at the next SA election and it has been a very long time since there was a one term government loosing power, at the polls, with their party in opposition at Commonwealth level. The last time was the defeat of the Walsh/Dunstan Government having been defeated in SA in 1968 (by the Playmander). Prior to that the Cain Senior Government in Victoria falling due to the Split. Prior to that the last time was the defeat of the Butler Government in 1930 in SA.

  14. If I was the SA Liberals I would try and introduce either 2PP MMP (where the proportional seats are based on the statewide 2CP, as the name suggests) or a a statewide multi-member electorate chosen by a majoritarian system (such as the system used in the windscreen-wiper Senate 1919-1949).

  15. Hmmm. I am not sure what (if anything) we can learn from these results.

    Labor primary votes up about 5%, and Green’s up a little – but in a field of largely independent candidates with no official Libs (and they’re by-elections anyway)?

    Labor “doing okay” is all I can see.

  16. In Winfield, an Independent got more than Greens. Is that normal?
    In both electorates, ALP primaries increased by 5%. Is it ominous?

  17. Anyone want to guess why the swings to ALP/Greens in Enfield and Enfield South are so different.

    And from the increases in Green votes in Cheltenham it seems like I have already missed the property price increases in the north west corridor

  18. Normally very little can be read in non-contested by-elections except where the primary vote collapses for a major party. This did not happen, therefore the Labor party is NOT on the nose.

    Also, the Liberal Democrats do extremely well when they can take the Liberal vote.

  19. Strong gains for the Greens in both seats by the looks of things. Based on polling and these seats, the SA Greens are going very well lately. Helps that they have such a well known champion of the left in Senator Hanson-Young as their figurehead. Some of the increase would also be due to the decline of NXT/SA Best no doubt. The SA Greens will pick up a few of the Xenophon voters who are looking for that “third force” alternative, while others will return to the two majors or vote independent. It has been quite a fall for Xenophon, especially considering he was being talked about as preferred SA premier not that long ago.

  20. Greens have done ok esp in Cheltenham going from 6 to 15% so quite a few mostly Liberal voters in 2018 have voted Greens. Enfield less so – only up 2 although Greens had donkey last time.

  21. Sepp, I believe you’re referring to BludgerTrack – this is because the list is a projection of the next election, and there won’t be a Port Adelaide at the next election because it’s been abolished in the redistribution.

  22. “Rocket Rocket says:
    Sunday, February 10, 2019 at 4:50 pm
    … there won’t be a Port Adelaide at the next election because it’s been abolished in the redistribution.

    And amongst the Crows fans, there was much rejoicing.”

    ..and Port Adelaide will have to be renamed the “Adelaide, Hindmarsh, Makin and Spence Power”.
    Just rolls off the tongue!!

  23. The big issue in SA is the hospital. There are enormous amounts of money involved and major issues in relation to all of the building itself, operations and medical services at the hospital.

    The Libs can’t afford to call it a white elephant – simply too much public cash is involved. But something has to change, and fast.

  24. Something to note about politics in SA is that the Liberal party is seriously under-resourced. It would be too simple to put it down to money, but one of the reasons the Liberals do poorly in SA is that they are always outspent and out volunteered.

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