Call of the board: South Australia

Yet more intricate detail on the May federal election result – this time from South Australia, where normality was restored after the Nick Xenophon interruption of 2016.

Welcome to another instalment of the now nearly complete Call of the Board series, a seat-by-seat review of the result of the May federal election. Now is the turn of South Australia, previous instalments having dealt with Sydney (here and here), regional New South Wales, Melbourne, regional Victoria, south-east Queensland, regional Queensland and Western Australia.

So far as the two-party swing was concerned, South Australia was largely a microcosm of the national result, with the Coalition picking up a swing of 1.6% (compared with 1.2% nationally) and no seats changing hands. Similarly, Labor did particularly badly in the regions, suffering big swings in Barker and Grey, compared with a highly consistent pattern of small swings in the metropolitan area. Labor won the statewide two-party preferred vote, as they have done at four out of the past five elections, albeit by a modest margin of 50.7-49.3.

As in previous recent instalments, I offer the following image with colour coding of swings at booth level. Compared with other metropolitan capitals, the divide between Labor swings in inner urban areas and Liberal swings further afield is somewhat less clear here, although the Labor swings are a fairly good proxy for general affluence. This would be even more apparent if the map extended further afield to encompass the Adelaide Hills areas covered by Mayo, where, as noted below, the tide seems to be running against the Liberals, and not just in comparison with Rebekha Sharkie.

On the primary vote, comparisons with 2016 are complicated by the Nick Xenophon factor. The Nick Xenophon Team scored 21.3% statewide in 2016, but its Centre Alliance successor fielded candidates only in the non-metropolitan seats of Mayo, Barker and Grey. Rebekha Sharkie was comfortably re-elected in Mayo, but the party’s vote was slashed in Barker and Grey. Primary votes elsewhere followed similar patterns – to save myself repetition in the seat-by-seat account below, the Xenophon absence left between 16.7% and 20.0% up for grabs in Kingston, Makin, Spence and Sturt, which resulted in primary vote gains of 5.1% to 6.2% for the Liberals, 5.2% to 6.6% for Labor and 2.6% to 3.9% for the Greens.

The other factor worth noting in preliminaries is a redistribution that resulted in the abolition of a seat, part of a trend that has reduced the state’s representation from 13 to 10 since 1990. This caused Port Adelaide to be rolled into Hindmarsh, creating one safe Labor seat out of what were formerly one safe Labor and one marginal seat. The eastern parts of Port Adelaide and Hindmarsh were transferred to Adelaide, setting the seal on a seat that has grown increasingly strong for Labor since the Howard years, while the Glenelg end of Hindmarsh went to Boothby, without changing its complexion as a marginal Liberal seat.

The table below compares two-party results with corresponding totals I have derived from Senate ballot papers, the idea being that this gives some sort of idea as to how results may have been affected by candidate and incumbency factors (two-party results for Labor are shown). This shows a clear pattern of Labor doing better in the House than the Senate in the seats than they hold, whereas there is little distinction in Liberal-held seats. My guess would be that there is a general tendency for Labor to score better in the House and the Senate overall, which is boosted further by sitting member effects in Labor-held seats, while being cancelled out by those in Liberal-held seats. Taking that into account, it would seem Labor’s sitting member advantages were relatively weak in Adelaide and Hindmarsh, which stands to reason given the disturbance of the redistribution.

On with the show:

Adelaide (Labor 8.2%; 0.1% swing to Liberal): The Liberal swing in this now safe Labor seat was below the statewide par despite the disappearance of Kate Ellis’s personal vote. In this it reflected the national inner urban trend, and also the long term form of a seat that has drifted from the Liberals’ reach since Ellis gained it in 2004. However, a divide was evident between a Liberal swing at the northern end and a Labor swing in the south, for reasons not immediately obvious. It may be thought to reflect the demographic character of the respective Enfield and Unley ends of the seat, but this doesn’t explain why the Liberals gained in Prospect immediatley north of the city, an area that would seem to refect the inner urban mould. Nor was there any particularly evident effect from the redistribution, which added to the west of the electorate parts of Hindmarsh, formerly held by Adelaide’s new member, Steve Georganas. The Centre Alliance registered a relatively weak 13.7% here in 2016 – the Greens did particularly well in their absence, lifting from 10.0% to 15.7%, although they are still a long way off being competitive.

Barker (Liberal 18.9%; 5.1% swing to Liberal): The Barossa Valley swung to Labor, but the rest of this seat followed the script of regional Australia in going strongly enough to the Liberals to substantially increase Tony Pasin’s already safe margin. A majority of the Centre Alliance collapse (from 27.6% to 2.9%) ended up with the Coalition, although the United Australia Party recorded an above average 5.9%, while the Labor primary vote made a weak gain of 4.7%.

Boothby (Liberal 1.4%; 1.3% swing to Labor): Labor once again failed to realise hopes of reeling in this southern Adelaide seat, despite it reflecting the national trend of affluent suburbia in recording a 1.3% Labor swing that overwhelmed whatever sophomore advantage may have accrued to Liberal member Nicolle Flint. The absence of the Centre Alliance left 18.5% of the vote up for grabs, and the Liberal, Labor and Greens primary votes were respectively up 3.5%, 7.7% and 3.8%.

Grey (Liberal 13.3%; 5.6% swing to Liberal): Another big regional swing to the Liberals, in this case to the advantage of Rowan Ramsey, who came within 2% of losing to the Nick Xenophon Team’s Andrea Broadfoot in 2016. Broadfoot ran again for the Centre Alliance this time and was down from 27.7% to 5.1%, of which a fair bit was accounted for by the entry of One Nation and the United Australia Party, a further fair bit went to the Liberals, while the Labor primary vote hardly budged.

Hindmarsh (Labor 6.5%; 1.9% swing to Liberal): The Liberals recorded a swing perfectly in line with the statewide result in a seat that is effectively a merger of the safe Labor seat of Port Adelaide, whose member Mark Butler now takes the reins in Hindmarsh, and what was previously the highly marginal seat of Hindmarsh, which extended into more Liberal-friendly territory further to the south. The income effect took on a very particular manifestation here in that the booths along the coast swung to Labor while those further inland tended to go the other way. With the Nick Xenophon Team taking its 17.0% vote into retirement, each of the main parties made roughly comparable gains on the primary vote.

Kingston (Labor 11.9%; 1.6% swing to Liberal): For the most part, this once marginal but now safe Labor seat followed the national outer urban trend in swinging to the Liberals, though not be nearly enough to cause serious concern for Labor member Amanda Rishworth. However, separate consideration is demanded of the northern end of the electorate, which is notably more affluent, particularly in comparison with the central part around Morphett Vale. This northern end consists of two parts separated by the Happy Valley Reservoir — the coast at Hallett Cove, and Flagstaff Hill further inland, the latter gained in the redistribution. For whatever reason, the former area behaved as did the rest of the electorate, whereas the latter swung to Labor.

Makin (Labor 9.7%; 1.1% swing to Liberal): So far as the electorate in aggregate is concerned, everything just noted about Kingston equally applies to Makin, which remains secure for Labor member Tony Zappia. There was perhaps a slight tendency for the more affluent parts of the electorate (in the north-east around Golden Grove) to do better for Labor than the low income parts, but not much.

Mayo (Centre Alliance 5.1%; 2.2% swing to Centre Alliance): As the Nick Xenophon/Centre Alliance vote tanked elsewhere, Rebekha Sharkie had no trouble repeating her feat of the 2016 election, when she unseated Liberal member Jamie Briggs, and the July 2018 Section 44 by-election, when she accounted for the now twice-unsuccessful Liberal candidate, Georgina Downer. Downer trod water on the primary vote this time, but nonetheless won the primary vote as Labor recovered market share from Sharkie after a particularly poor showing at the by-election. Sharkie’s winning margin of 5.1% was slightly down on her 7.5% by-election win. The Sharkie factor obscured what may be an ongoing trend to Labor in the seat, with Downer winning the Liberal-versus-Labor vote by a very modest 2.5%. This partly reflected a 2% shift in the redistribution, but there was also a 0.7% swing to Labor that bucked the statewide trend.

Spence (Labor 14.1%; 3.0% swing to Liberal): As well as changing its name from Wakefield, the redistribution removed the rural territory that formerly leavened the Labor margin in a seat that now encompasses Adelaide’s low-rent north, up to and including Gawler. For those with a long enough memory, it more resembles the long lost seat of Bonython, a Labor stronghold through a history from 1955 to 2004, than Wakefield, which was a safe Liberal seat until Bonython’s abolition drew it into the suburbs. Consistent with the national trend of low-income and outer urban seats, Labor member Nick Champion emerged with a dent in his still considerable margin.

Sturt (Liberal 6.9%; 1.5% swing to Liberal): In the seat vacated upon Christopher Pyne’s retirement, swing results neatly reflected the distribution of income, favouring Labor at the northern end and Liberal in the south. Whatever the impact of the loss of Pyne’s personal vote, it didn’t stop Liberal debutante James Stevens scoring a primary vote majority and 1.5% two-party swing.

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.

498 comments on “Call of the board: South Australia”

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  1. Dandy Murray says:
    Saturday, November 23, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    Player One,

    I don’t know why I’m bothering, but here goes:

    – Sg predominantly use natural gas and fuel oil for electricity production.
    – Any renewables injected into the Sg grid directly offset fossil fuel electricity production, which is a straight environmental good.
    – Energy as a proportion of total electricity price is huge, about $180/MWh, compare to ~$60/MWh here, and subject to external price shocks.
    – Sg are not happy with being strategically exposed to international fuel prices and supply lines and wish to diversify.
    – Gas generation gives them flexibility to import considerable amounts of VRE without upgrading their existing generation fleet.
    – The equator is a shitty place for renewables because of clouds and no regular wind.
    – The solar farms intended to supply Sg will be in northern WA and the NT. They are at least a couple of thousand kms from the major Australian load centres in the south east.
    – We already have very large amounts of solar PV, which is causing the price for energy when they all generate to approach zero in some places, so the market is close to saturation (without storage – another story).
    – We pay much more for networks than Sg, because we are not an island.
    – Most of our network cost is in distribution networks, which large-scale solar does nothing to offset.
    – Private capitalists think they can make a buck doing environmental good (cf. Facebook), and this is to be encouraged. IMHO they are trying to get in before the big guys (Shell, BP, State Grid, etc).

    I’ll give you another on hydrogen later.

    I hope you keep doing so.

    It is critical that people push back on the sort of nonsense P1 writes, and it is also important people point out, there are solutions to this problem. That trying to export jobs by gluing one-selves to the road is not the solution.

    The Greens have failed environmental policy spectacularly. Liberals to date have pretended it is not happening (perhaps they have finally waking up, we will see). It is important Labor develop policy that offer a solution and that are based on reality, to do so needs the input of people that know the facts, it also needs to be defended by people that now what they are talking about.

    We already know all we will get out of the greens is adani, adani , adani, as useful as tits on a bull.

    When the likes of P1 posts rubbish on the relative price of Singapore energy there needs to someone to counter with the facts.

  2. Jericho has a go at verballing centrists.

    He is nowhere near where this particular centrist sits so I find his fulminations particularly amusing. He focuses on climate change policy. In this space there are two extremes in Australian politics:

    1. The Government which is subsidizing increased use of fossil fuels.
    2. The Greens who intend to implement Zero/2030.

    In passing I note that both the Government and the Greens are feasting electorally off their extremist positions in associated culture war battles.

    The core problem with Jericho’s diatribe is that, in castigating centrists, he excludes these extremes from his analysis.

    I assume that Jericho is a supporter of Zero/2030. If so, he should say so. Further he should demonstrate to all the knock-kneed addle-pated centrists just exactly how Zero/2030 will be sold successfully to 51% 2PP of the electorate AND exactly how it can be deliver in eight years should a Greens government form a majority in 2022 AND gain control of the Senate. If he is neither a fossil fuel subsidy man nor a Zero/2030 man HE is a centrist himself.

    Ironies abound.

    This centrist reckons that the Government extreme pro fossil climate policies cannot work cos science. This centrist reckons that the Greens extreme Zero/2030 policies cannot work because (a) it cannot be implemented for practical reasons and (b) 90% of Australians are voting against it.

    This leaves us centrists with trying to cobble together something that (a) will work and (b) is saleable to the electorate despited being wedge on both sides by… the extremists.

    Mr Jericho’s analysis of centrism is an unmitigated crock.

  3. Morning all. Thanks BK. Good luck to those trying to restore wage justice to retail workers. At this stage I suspect only employees of the SDA seek to defend it. It does its members about as much good as the AMP does to its investors.

    Have a good day all.

  4. I would like to know how well Emerson gets on with Albo, either as personal friend or ideological opposites. Or are they really opposites?

  5. Zoomster
    I’m always amused by the blind faith that 2 rebel lib senators would have voted for Rudd’s bill if their votes would have really mattered.

  6. I pointed out the other day you can buy Trump xmas wrapping paper. Now you can get Mitch McConnell wrapping paper. And no, this is not fake.


  7. Vicky Ward is a CNN reporter FWIW.

    Vicky WardVerified account@VickyPJWard
    1h1 hour ago
    Lev Parnas’s attorney has told me that his client would not be making these claims if he didn’t have text messages and other such evidence to back them up.

  8. “Latest UK polling show the folly of Labour leading with Corbyn. Let’s hope the US Democratic Party does not follow suit and choose a polarising far left candidate.”


    Nah, what it actually shows is the folly of going to an election without taking a clear position on a major issue. Corbyn is unable to say whether he would support Leave or Remain in the referendum that he is proposing. He was all over Johnson during the debate except for when the question of what to do about Brexit was raised. Bill Shorten – a member of the ALP Right Faction and anything but “far left” – made exactly the same mistake of not being willing/able to articulate a clear position on Adani. Corbyn is losing BOTH Leave and Remain supporters, just as Shorten lost BOTH the coal industry and environmentalists.

  9. C@tmomma says:
    Sunday, November 24, 2019 at 7:48 am

    “There was no scientific justification for a 40 per cent cut. They just knew it was 15-20 per cent higher than anyone else was prepared to offer. They designed it in a manner to cause the negotiations to fail. The negotiations with them were a bullshit exercise.

    “And so we had to go to Plan B which was to negotiate with the Liberals.”

    Lets hope the Greens take some time out to reflect on what they have done, to reflect on the enormous damage they have done when it comes to environmental policy in this country. It would surly be more useful than the adani, adani, adani chant.

  10. C@tmomma @ #45 Sunday, November 24th, 2019 – 5:36 am

    Sometimes it’s good to point out that The Greens can be every bit as cynical politically as ‘the duopoly’.

    No argument from me on that one. I believe that the same level of scepticism should be not only applied to all political parties, but ALL politicians, no matter what party they belong to or not.

    It takes a special breed of person to run for public office knowing full well they will never be able to please everyone, and they will make enemies both from their opponents as well as fellow party members. To gain pre-selection for any party you’re forced to compete with your “allies” who want the job just as badly as you do. If you win, those competitors are going to publicly sing your praises while plotting your downfall behind your back.

    My attitude is probably best summed up by an American joke. In order to become POTUS all candidates should answer one question – “Do you want to be POTUS?” If your answer to that question is “Yes”, you are completely unsuitable for the role.

  11. Sitting in the middle of two extremes doesn’t necessarily place one in the sensible centre. And as US/Aus and other regimes with vested interests try to thwart and reverse progress, meaningful action continues to shift to one extreme.

  12. it’s time says:
    Sunday, November 24, 2019 at 8:49 am

    I’m always amused by the blind faith that 2 rebel lib senators would have voted for Rudd’s bill if their votes would have really mattered.

    And thanks to the Greens we will never know, will we.

  13. c@t, z,

    After the second defeat Labor had two choices to get the CPRS done: negotiate a deal that satisfied the Greens concerns, or call a DD election.

    Remind me again, which path did Labor choose to take?

  14. What is the clear position of the British Greens on Brexit?
    Their policy must lack a bit of the old zest and zinger quality because only 3% of the electorate are buying it.
    Well, I suppose, as long as they are right, that is the main thing.

  15. bakunin @ #64 Sunday, November 24th, 2019 – 8:58 am

    c@t, z,

    After the second defeat Labor had two choices to get the CPRS done: negotiate a deal that satisfied the Greens concerns, or call a DD election.

    Remind me again, which path did Labor choose to take?

    Ah yes, capitulate to The Greens’ demands. Yes, that went REALLY well when Julia Gillard tried it, and actually did it. 😐

  16. bakunin says:
    Sunday, November 24, 2019 at 8:58 am

    c@t, z,

    After the second defeat Labor had two choices to get the CPRS done: negotiate a deal that satisfied the Greens concerns, or call a DD election.

    Remind me again, which path did Labor choose to take?

    And what did we get; absolute proof that partnering with the party that can’t results in an outcome that can’t.

  17. Consciousness level – carried forward from 1972 has risen to danger level.
    Experts from The Orstrayan have sounded possibility of end of life as previously known.

    Level at 1972 0.00005%

    Level today 0.00006%

    Indicators include frogs, lice, flies, livestock pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and stupidity.

    Late news. The Religious Freedom Bill ………

    ….is not expected to contain a heresy clause although being in the wrong group would mean being transferred to an offshore settlement or sentenced to life working picking fruit.

  18. ‘it’s time says:
    Sunday, November 24, 2019 at 8:57 am

    Sitting in the middle of two extremes doesn’t necessarily place one in the sensible centre. And as US/Aus and other regimes with vested interests try to thwart and reverse progress, meaningful action continues to shift to one extreme.’

    I agree with your basic proposition that it is possible to be in the centre somewhere and STILL fail the sensible test. Which raises the question: ‘What does ‘sensible’ actually mean.’

    IMO, there are two broad tests for ‘sensible’ here:

    1. Can it be done and if it is done will it work?
    2. Can you get 2PP of the electorate to vote for it?

    At the moment both extremes fails the sensible test.

    That leaves centrists to find a position somewhere in between that meets these tests.

    But the extremes are SO extreme that it is feasible for the centre to adopt a position that fails one or both elements of the sensible test.

  19. ‘ So you’re claiming that Abbott would’ve allowed those 2 senators to cross the floor to pass the bill.’

    They crossed the floor.

    You claim the Greens had some psychic insight which allowed them to know absolutely as fact that if they had voted for the Bill, the two Senators wouldn’t have.

    That’s pure speculation.

    The facts are that – regardless of what Abbott would have said (and he wasn’t leader at the time, no one expected that he would be, Malcolm had stood down but not been replaced) – two Liberal Senators crossed the floor.

    The Greens could have rolled the dice.

  20. it’s time says:
    Sunday, November 24, 2019 at 9:01 am

    I take it you are criticising the greens for supporting Gillard’s legislation. Was it so inferior to Rudd’s?

    Rudd’s policy was better because it would have stuck.

  21. it’s time

    ‘I’m always amused by the blind faith that 2 rebel lib senators would have voted for Rudd’s bill if their votes would have really mattered.’

    It’s even more blind faith to say that they wouldn’t have.

    They did cross the floor. That’s an absolute fact.

    It takes another blind leap of faith to say they wouldn’t have if the Greens did.

    The evidence tends to suggest otherwise.

  22. Maude Lynne
    Sunday, November 24, 2019 at 8:15 am
    Re criticism of the SDA agreements with employers, I can say:
    The point you fail to get is that the members of the SDA would have been better off without any EBA. Just being under the award they would have been much better off.

  23. So Scotty wants a bushfire COAG but isn’t prepared to talk about the elephant in the room: climate change. If not what a waste of bringing together the country’s leaders on this issue.

  24. Thanks William for these posts. Too much in them for hacks like me to fully comprehend but still interesting and no doubt a valuable resource for peeps in the circus and pundits with anytime out from talking head commitments and when their heads come up out of their arses for air.

    Being a hack I will tentatively say; rather than just focussing on winning back regions, Boothby and its ilk have important lessons for the ALP. And instructive for the rest of us in considering WTF Australia is doing voting in a government that is a batter of post truth populism, authoritarianism, cronyism, corruptionism, radical extremism, parochial divisivism that makes me all depressionism.

  25. Good Morning

    I see the Centrists are back to blaming the Greens for a failed bill instead of recognising the Greens voted for Gillards Carbon Price.

    What if fantasy never trumps reality.

  26. bakunin

    ‘After the second defeat Labor had two choices to get the CPRS done: negotiate a deal that satisfied the Greens concerns, or call a DD election.’

    Well, the first choice wouldn’t have led anywhere. The Liberals had become locked into a position by that stage (they weren’t at the time of the vote – as I said before, they were leaderless) and the Greens and Labor’s combined vote wasn’t enough to do anything.

    Although I tend to agree that a DD should have been called, I was always nervous about how keen the Liberals were for one. Labor would have faced the combined onslaught of the media, the Liberals and the Greens arguing against whatever they put up on climate change.

  27. So Frednk, why would Rudd’s policy have stuck when Gillard’s was rescinded at the first opportunity. Btw, speculation is of no value.

  28. it’s time
    Instead of posting sanctimonious crap a few Greens supporters need to face up to the damage the Greens have done with there same same crap and their efforts to prove they are relevant.

  29. Danama Papers

    At the time many people thought a DD was the way to go. It very likely was but personally I was against it at the time out of risk aversion. After so many years of !@#Q$#@!!! Howard and Labor barely moved in I did not like the thought of them risking the pricks getting back in again.

  30. it’s time says:
    Sunday, November 24, 2019 at 9:13 am

    So Frednk, why would Rudd’s policy have stuck when Gillard’s was rescinded at the first opportunity. Btw, speculation is of no value.

    Granted speculation is of no value, the reality is known, the Greens have nothing to be proud of. At least Labor can say they tried.

  31. Bakunin

    After the second defeat Labor had two choices to get the CPRS done: negotiate a deal that satisfied the Greens concerns, or call a DD election.

    The first choice did not exist because the ALP and Greens together did not have the numbers.
    The second choice was not as easy as some like to think. The MSM at the time was following Murdochs lead and working hard to create doubt about the need for action.

  32. I reckon if Rudd had taken the DD route, he’d still be PM today. No evidence to support that of course, just a belief of mine.

    I honestly and objectively don’t think so. If you remember the environment, post-Copenhagen, when Rudd came back to Australia without a global deal, the Murdoch papers were gunning for him big time and you had all the Climate Denier clowns, like that fake Lord with the googly eyes coming to Australia and being given the spotlight to turn around public opinion. With Tony Abbott as Opposition Leader in a Double Dissolution scenario and the Murdoch mafia running the media show I really doubt Kevin could have won.

  33. FredNK

    Instead of posting what if fantasies Centrists need to face up to the reality it was the LNP, not Labor or the Greens that destroyed sensible successful climate policy.

    That includes a lot of journalists who also ignore this reality.

  34. I will put it another way.

    Despite what is said on this blog the Greens are not seers rummaging through chicken entrails able to predict votes in LNP party rooms.

  35. Bee

    Fran: Here’s some figures on how bad the economy is

    Joshie: I’m gonna ignore your figures & give you some other figures

    Fran: OK

  36. Nath,
    If the SDA negotiated agreement really did result in workers being worse off than being under the award then it should not have been approved by the FWC.
    Was this the case? Were they worse off?
    If so, in what way?

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