SA election: call of the board

The finer points of Labor’s South Australian election win, and a closer look at the seats still in doubt.

Tuesday night

The Electoral Commission website is finally publishing two-candidate preferred results, but as ever there remains the South Australian peculiarity that the declaration votes are not being broken down into separate results for pre-polls, postals and absents, so we will have little guidance as to why what’s happening is happening as these results inevitably bounce around over the next week or so. After essentially no progress in the count on Monday, declaration votes started being reported in some seats yesterday.

The ABC rates nine seats as being in varying degrees of doubt, but I’m not inclined to agree with respect to Hammond, where declaration votes can only widen Liberal member Adrian Pederick’s 51.3-48.7 lead over independent Airlie Keen, who seems unlikely to make the final count in any case. That leaves clear results of 26 for Labor, 12 for Liberal and four for independents. Not among the in doubt is one seat I should have mentioned in the previous update: Gibson, where the identification of errors and the allocation of saved informal votes in accordance with registered party tickets on Saturday increased the size of Labor’s lead from 486 to an insurmountable 1055. That leaves:

Dunstan. Early indications are that this is going as I thought it might, with the first batch of declaration votes breaking 924-792 in favour of Steven Marshall, reducing the Labor lead from 143 to 11.

Finniss. Despite 1939 declaration votes breaking 1115-824 in favour of Liberal member David Basham over independent candidate Lou Nicholson on the two-party preferred candidate, it remains clear that he will not close the gap. So the issue remains whether Nicholson will indeed made the final count, or whether it will be a Liberal-Labor contest in which Basham will presumably prevail. The declaration votes so far suggest she won’t make it, as they have reduced her overall primary vote from 23.0% to 21.6% while increasing Labor’s from 23.4% to 23.7%.

Morialta. Liberal member John Gardner seems very unlikely to lose from here, the first batch of declaration votes having increased his margin from 145 to 347.

Unley. Another one that will shortly be off the Liberals’ endangered list if the first declaration votes are any guide: they have broken 680-402 in favour of Liberal member David Pisoni, increasing his lead from 92 to 370.

Waite. Liberal candidate Alexander Hyde needed declaration votes to break perhaps 64-36 in his favour to rein in Catherine Hutchesson’s lead on the two-candidate count – implausible as this seemed, he’s come close on the first batch, which have broken 609-376 his way (so 61.8%). Independent Heather Holmes-Ross nudging her way to the final count on preferences should continue to be rated very unlikely.

Sunday night

The news kept getting worse for the Liberals in today’s counting, thanks to two new two-candidate preference counts in seats where the wrong candidates were picked for the count on the night:

Waite. After conducting a preference count between Liberal candidate Alexander Hyde and independent Heather Holmes-Ross on the night, which made it clear Hyde would lose if Holmes-Ross made the final count, today a new count was conducted between Hyde and Labor candidate Catherine Hutchesson that made it clear he would lose to her too. That seems far the most likely outcome, with primary votes of Labor 27.4%, Liberal 24.5%, 18.9% for Liberal-turned-independent incumbent Sam Duluk and 15.3% for Holmes-Ross. Preferences from the Greens (12.0%) and Animal Justice (1.9%) could theoretically cause either independent to reduce the Liberals to third place and leave Labor and the independent at the final account, but that seems very unlikely. Labor thus looks poised to win the state’s second most affluent seat, which has it has neither won before now, either as Waite or in its previous incarnation as Mitcham going back to 1938.

Flinders. Liberal candidate Sam Telfer has 45.3% of the primary vote here, which in a field of six candidates that includes the Nationals would normally be enough. However, a two-candidate preferred count between Telfer and independent candidate Liz Habermann, which has thus far accounted for 10 out of 27 booths, finds preferences splitting 78-22 in favour of Habermann. According to the ABC, this suggests Habermann is ahead according to a method that matches the 10 booths with their equivalent results from 2018. However, projecting the preference flow so far across the primary votes puts Telfer ahead 51.1-48.9. I would also suggest that postal votes are likely to favour him. Should she fall short, the possibility of Habermann running in Grey at the federal election was canvassed on the ABC’s Insiders this morning.

Dunstan. Labor’s Cressida O’Hanlon trailed here 7191 to 7095 at the close on Saturday, but now leads 7376 to 7233. The ABC site explains: “Greens and Family First votes with insufficient preferences that were saved by SA’s unique ticket voting provision have been added today. Both parties lodged tickets flowing to Labor so that has added around 170 votes to Labor’s total.” That leaves him 0.5% behind, but my judgement yesterday that late counting was likely to improve his position by over 1% isn’t affected by this. It remains uncomfortably close for him, though presumably there is a strong chance of him retiring from politics and O’Hanlon getting a second crack at a by-election if she falls short.

Saturday night

Labor went into the election with 19 seats out of 47, had an easy gain in Florey with the departure of independent Frances Bedford, and have made it to a clear majority with five further gains from the Liberals. I count five potential further gains, including Steven Marshall’s seat of Dunstan, though I only reckon them to be ahead in one, and a sixth if they win Waite from a Liberal-turned-independent, which is very hard to call.

The Liberals won 25 seats in 2018, which had reduced to 22 by the election with three members moving to the cross-bench. Two of these three have been re-elected as independents while the third has been defeated – as just noted, it’s not clear whether by Liberal or Labor. If that seat remains with the Liberals and the other close races go their way, they will finish on 17. However, there is one further seat that may yet fall to an independent. Geoff Brock has proved net neutral for the Liberals in that the party gained his old seat of Frome, but have now lost Stuart to him. This leaves three or maybe four independents, or perhaps even five if it’s an independent who gets up in the complex race for Waite.

The display on the ABC site rates the most likely outcome as Labor on 28 seats, when they in fact lead in only 27. This would be the result of a probability-based determination that rates Labor as most likely to get over the line in one of the several seats where it is slightly behind, without any commitment as to which one.

The ABC’s system has booth-matching switched off, so the swings it shows are simply the pre-election margins as compared with the current raw totals. The analysis that follows, by contrast, compares election day booth results with their equivalent from last time, those being the only votes counted as of yet. All we will get today is rechecking and perhaps the reporting of a few straggler booths that didn’t get their two-candidate preferred results in from last night – counting of pre-polls, postals and absent votes, which by my reckoning should account for a bit less than 40% of the total, will begin on Monday. A further complication is that I have consistently used the post-redistribution margins calculated by the Boundaries Commission, which differ from those Antony Green has calculated for the ABC.

Labor gains:

Adelaide: The election day vote was completed at the end of the night, and showed the 0.8% Liberal margin easily accounted for by a 6.6% swing to Labor.

Davenport: The most impressive of Labor’s gains was its first ever win in Davenport, achieved by Erin Thompson with an 11.8% swing against Liberal member Steve Murray, who went into the election with a margin of 8.4%.

Elder: One of the four easy pickings for Labor with margins of less than 2% — precisely so in this case — swung to Labor by 7.5%, with Labor’s Nadia Clancy gaining the seat from Liberal member Carolyn Power.

King: The Liberals’ hope of toughing it out here on the back of Paula Leuthen’s sophomore surge weren’t realised — against a 0.8% margin, Labor’s Rhiannon Pearce scored a 3.9% swing.

Newland: In the tightest of the Liberal marginals, Labor’s Olivia Savvas did it easily with a swing of 5.0% (one booth is yet to report on the two-candidate preferred count, but this won’t matter much). In her bid to move from Florey, which she held for Labor from 1997 to 2017 and as an independent thereafter, Frances Bedford finished a very distant third with 11.9%.

Down to the wire:

Dunstan: Outgoing Premier Steven Marshall leads after counting of election day votes by 7191 to 7095, a margin of 0.3%. I calculate this as a swing of 6.2%, which given his margin of 8.1% suggests he’s likely to prevail. However, that’s the Boundaries Commission’s estimate of the margin — Antony Green only has it at 7.5%.

Gibson: The election day booths swung 10.7% to Labor, exceeding a Liberal margin of 9.9%, but not by so much that you’d call it.

Morialta: Outgoing Education Minister John Gardner had a 9.9% margin going in according to the Boundaries Commission, but only 9.4% according to Antony Green. On the election day vote he copped a swing of 8.6%.

Unley: This has been a pretty safe Liberal seat since 1993, and while David Pisoni looks like retaining it, he suffered a scare in the form of a 9.8% swing to Labor against a margin of 11.2%.

Waite: This one is very hard to read: the two-candidate preferred count has independent Heather Holmes-Ross leading Liberal candidate Alexander Hyde by 55.3% to 44.7%, but this will only apply if Holmes-Ross makes the final count and she’s actually running fourth. It’s theoretically possible that preferences from the Greens (12.0%) and Animal Justice (1.9%) could help her close the 18.9% to 15.3% gap against Liberal-turned-indepenent member Sam Duluk, and that Duluk’s preferences could then push her ahead of Hyde, although a lot of Duluk’s preferences will presumably go straight to Hyde. In that case, it comes down to a race between Hyde and Labor candidate Catherine Hutchesson that could go either way, with the result depending on the preferences of the nearly 50% of voters who voted for neither, about which we can only speculate.

Notable contests involving independents:

Stuart: I personally didn’t like Geoff Brock’s chances against Deputy Premier Dan van Holst Pellekaan, to which he moved after his home base of Port Pirie was transferred to the electorate from his existing seat of Frome. So it was a very substantial surprise that he romped home with 65.9% of the vote on the two-candidate preferred count at the end of the night, albeit that postal votes will undoubtedly rein that in a fair bit.

Kavel: Liberal-turned-independent Dan Cregan scored a thumping win with a majority on the primary vote.

Narungga: Another Liberal-turned-independent, Fraser Ellis, has comfortably retained his seat ahead of Liberal candidate Tom Michael with 58.9% on ECSA’s two-candidate preferred count, from primary votes of 32.4% for Ellis, 28.1% for Michael and 20.2% for Labor.

Finniss: ECSA conducted a count between Liberal member David Basham and independent candidate Lou Nicholson in which Nicholson polled 5590 of the election day votes (54.7%) and Basham polled 4625 (45.3%). However, this only applies if Nicholson makes the final preference count, which would seem to be touch and go — Basham is on 36.9%, Labor’s Amy Hueppauff is on 23.5% and Nicholson is on 22.9%, so Nicholson has a gap to close on preferences. Otherwise the final count will be Basham versus Hueppauff, in which case Basham should win fairly comfortably.

Florey: Worth noting as a Labor gain, but with independent Frances Bedford vacating the seat for an unsuccessful run in Newland, this was a mere formality.

Frome: Similarly, this predictably returned to the Liberals with Geoff Brock’s move to Stuart,

Finally, a bit over half of the count for the Legislative Council has been conducted, and the most likely result looks like being five seats for Labor, four for the Liberals and one each for the Greens and One Nation, the latter being in line for their first ever seat in the South Australian parliament. Taken together with the ongoing members elected in 2018, this will mean a chamber of nine Labor members, eight Liberals, two Greens, two from SA-Best and one from One Nation.

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.

387 comments on “SA election: call of the board”

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  1. I wasn’t so sure about Geoff Brock’s chances but in retrospect it was kind of obvious that this seat would fit him better. Old Frome combined Port Pirie with the Clare Valley, which… I defy you to find any pair of regional centres in the country that are so different despite being an hour away from each other. Port Augusta meanwhile is a town with a similar story, a town which was built on heavy industry which has since had a long period of decline and which is looked at derisively by people everywhere else in the state. You’d expect Brock to be a much easier sell there than in wine country. Notwithstanding of course that I’m still completely baffled by the Commission deciding to split the town in half, if it weren’t independent it’d strike me as a fairly blatant bit of gerrymandering.

  2. As someone who dislikes all political parties (because they corrupt representative democracy) I am most interested in the possible success of Lou Nicholson as an Independent in Finniss and what it might mean as a harbinger in the upcoming Federal election for the success of more (true) independents.

  3. I would have thought the Credlin pic was rather neutral rather than unhappy. Ho hum the peasants are rather revolting.

  4. Very good night for state Labor.

    Brock’s thumping victory over the Deputy Premier is one of the more impressive independent feats anywhere in recent times. Bedford is probably wishing she hadn’t run again, and it seems strange in hindsight if she was going to put in the sort of campaign that leads to even a redistributed incumbent getting such a low vote; it’s a sad way to go out for a good MP.

    Not sure Marshall’s late silly turn on COVID hurt him as much as some people here think – for reasons I never quite understood, Marshall was just never very far ahead in the polls in the first place (even when he was being sensible on COVID and literally every other state and territory leader was flying) and Malinauskas always seemed to have his number.

    Malinauskas seems to have run with a very similar strategy to Mark McGowan’s first win – nothing dramatic on social policy and lots of big, sensible and meaningful infrastructure commitments (aided considerably by Marshall’s basketball stadium silliness undermining any attempt to lash Malinauskas about spending).

    Not sure about the degree of federal implications given Albanese is running a much, much more small-target strategy than Malinauskas, and Malinauskas generally comes across as a stronger character.

  5. William has ALP come back today? Unley now has them ahead by 2+% and a number of others have come back to less than 51%. Is this later counting or re-checks fixing mistakes?

  6. As per Anthony Green due to SA ‘vote saving’ provisions, voters who did not complete there preference properly can be saved, and allocated to the next discernible preference. As a lot of groups preferences ALP next, they benefit most from these parked votes on Saturday night now being allocated.

  7. I think there is a lot of booth checking going on, and if you look at the numbers of votes in the 2PP pie chart they don’t add up to anywhere near the right amount. It’s VERY annoying (as William has pointed out) that ECSA don’t list the 2PP booth results (ie you can’t see which booths are actually in the displayed 2PP count).

    Bottom line: don’t pay too much attention to the 2PP listings at this moment.

  8. “The swing in Unley is now nearly 16% … Jesus.”


    Thing of beauty, isn’t it? The landscape of that seat has changed completely. Greens and Labor have gained over 20% between them. And that swing to the Greens is simply glorious!

  9. That Unley count can’t be right.

    If Pisoni is starting from a first preference count of 45.6% it beggars belief that he only got 1% of what was a very high Green vote.

    Labor usually gets 80-85% of Greens preferences, but less in seats like Unley with lots of Teal voters.

    That deserves another look, in my opinion.

  10. There an error in the feed for Unley — in the Unley booth, it has 393 votes for the Greens but none for Labor or Liberal. It also has Labor with 160 votes on TCP and Liberal with 29, which doesn’t seem terribly likely.

  11. It does seem to have been a messy count, and the ABC’s projection on Unley has come from the blue, but it is also based on ECSA 2PP figures which are not complete.

    There were only 3 candidates in Unley and 13k PVs – split 6k Lib, 4k Labor and 3k Greens. Labor would obviously be relying on a heavy preference flow from Greens to win – and maybe that’s what’s happening and is now reflected in the projection. 90% of Greens preferences would get Labour around 51.5% 2PP. An 85% flow would get Labor to around 50.4%. As with Dunstan, in that scenario, the great unknown remains how prepolls and postal will flow at this election (I think comparisons with prior elections now go out the window due to Covid eg, in the Strathfield by election, Labor did fractionally better on prepolls and postals than on the booth tallies – and both Unley and Dunstan would be broadly comparable demographically with Strathfield).

    If Labor did end up winning Unley and/or Dunstan, it would be quite a remarkable outcome.

  12. The TPP count is only 7k. The raw vote is 13k. Clearly the TPP is from some more progressive booths.

    The TPP actually shows Libs at -1% versus the raw vote

  13. Chinda63 @ #62 Sunday, March 20th, 2022 – 2:36 pm

    That Unley count can’t be right.

    If Pisoni is starting from a first preference count of 45.6% it beggars belief that he only got 1% of what was a very high Green vote.

    Labor usually gets 80-85% of Greens preferences, but less in seats like Unley with lots of Teal voters.

    That deserves another look, in my opinion.

    It’s worse than that – negative preferences! Due to a partial pref count.

    Current graph on the ECSA for Unley has ALP on >70% – it’s a nonsense.

  14. Waite on the other hand is a turn-up — ECSA is conducting a Liberal-versus-Labor TCP count now. I believe the result we’re seeing on the site is incomplete, but no idea how incomplete. I’ve got a version of the XML file which would seem to be slightly out of date that has results from three booths in it. I’ll start wrapping my head around those results now.

  15. Just looked at the Unley figures on the ECSA website and they are clearly wrong.

    David Pisoni is at 47.2% on first preferences. It’s just not possible for the figure to go backwards, but ECSA are saying he’s on 29.6% on TPP.

    In fact (not even factoring in pre-polls, which may go either way, and postal votes which almost always favour the incumbent) I can’t see Pisoni losing from here.

    Even on these figures, he only need 391 of the Greens’ 2854 to get over 50% +1 of the vote.

    I suspect the votes to come will only make things better for him.

  16. On the first three booths – they’re going through them alphabetically, so these are Belair, Bellevue Heights and Blackwood — Labor has received 1785 preferences and Liberal 1377, so a split of 56.5-43.5. These booths are reasonably representative, so the result you’re seeing on ECSA means pretty much what it says. When you project that preference splits over the primary vote totals, which are Labor 27.4% and Liberal 24.%, Labor leads 54.5-45.5.

  17. So, ECSA conniptions aside, I make it 19 ALP retains and 6 ALP flips (including Florey). That’s 25 confirmed plus a good chance in Gibson and a sniff in Waite which equate to a possible 27 seats. Not a bad night’s work.

  18. WB – that means Waite is heading for what would arguably be the most surprising outcome of all from this election. Certainly up there with Davenport, and sending real danger signs to Federal Libs about Boothby.

  19. Outsider earlier. If voting is similar for senate as leg council Greens would win a senate seat because they would do quite well from c 4% Cannabis. Ajp and stop overdeveloped groups.
    Labor vote in leg council needs to go up a bit more to get a third senator.
    But if the splintering and exhausting of votes on the right continues we could get a 3 Labor 2 Lib 1 greens result

  20. No doubt the bad vibes coming from the new Planning Code giving developers a legup with development at odds with community expectations has contributed to the Libs poor results in the eastern suburbs/foothills.
    Well done to Protect our Heritage Alliance, Community Alliance, National Trust, Conservation Council etc for effective campaigning.
    Chance for Labor to reverse some of the stupidities of bowing to Property Council..

  21. Good news if Young Liberal Turk(ey) Alex Hyde got handed a no thanks result in Waite.
    The Advertiser giving him a huge and fairly fawning write up a few weeks ago should rightly backfire.
    Maybe Martin Hamilton-Smith should get some credit as well for showing the way to do a left turn!

  22. Re Waite, as posted earlier the Liberal candidate just looks like an absolutely textbook Young Lib hereditary rule situation. No other rational reason you would run a young, gormless looking male candidate with no apparent life experience. Google indicates he’s basically been born and then immediately moved through a series of anointed roles such as being part of the notorious ‘Team Adelaide’ bloc of the city council.

    Nothing would delight me more than to see this arrogant preselection met with a stunning defeat.

    Re Dunstan, how can the ABC project a Liberal win with a 0.3% margin and a huge number of outstanding votes?

  23. Don’t give up on Unley quite yet:

    After all booths recounted.. down by 1107 at the end of the recount without ppoll and postal… won 111 votes back today.

    Won Glenunga, Parkside, Goodwood, Unley, Kingswood, Millswood, Wayville.

    This is 7 booths out of 15 overall.

  24. Spence – snap!

    This guy up against two quality women with much more experience and actual policies. The LNP in SA its own worst enemy.

  25. After allocating all “booth” preferences in Dunstan, Labor is now in the lead. Note these are real ECSA numbers – not projections. The lead is over 100 votes. There might be no need for a by-election later in the year…

  26. More funny effects of the SA election on Federal politics:

    From The Guardian: “The prime minister sought to downplay what the resounding Labor win in South Australia could mean on a federal level, saying Anthony Albanese doesn’t match up to his state colleagues.”

    Ha, ha, ha…. Hey, Scomo, your problem is that you don’t match up to Anthony Albanese!… and more importantly, the Coalition you lead doesn’t match up to the ALP that Albo leads….

    The political noose is tightening around Scomo’s and his Coalition’s collective political neck…. 🙂

  27. ECSA has also fixed up the Unley numbers. Pisoni ahead by about 90 after all booth vote preferences have been allocated.

    We will know a lot more about both Dunstan and Unley tomorrow or Tuesday, when prepolls and Postal votes on hand get added to the tally.

  28. I was at a joint booth for Waite/Unley and was surprised at the number of Unley voters turning up and taking only Labor HTV. EEC actually ran out of paper ballots. Duluk crew looked confident but when I talked to a bunch of their poll workers got a serious Trump/Stolen Election vibe. SA Best turned up for 2 hours late in the afternoon on one entrance of 2, so not surprised they dropped to negligible level. Poll worker seemed to be a conspiracy nut job..

  29. Firefoxsays:
    Sunday, March 20, 2022 at 2:27 pm
    “The swing in Unley is now nearly 16% … Jesus.”


    Thing of beauty, isn’t it? The landscape of that seat has changed completely. Greens and Labor have gained over 20% between them. And that swing to the Greens is simply glorious!

    I don’t have to be Mathematics genius to know that 2PP of party qualified for 2PP will be higher than its PV.
    So something terribly wrong with that chart, whether you like it or not.

  30. “Outsider earlier. If voting is similar for senate as leg council Greens would win a senate seat because they would do quite well from c 4% Cannabis. Ajp and stop overdeveloped groups.”


    The Greens’ SA Senate vote is already a little higher than the state upper house too. It was 10.91% in 2019, so if we can build on that again this time we’ll be very well placed. I’d say the main reason for the higher Senate vote up until now would be Sarah Hanson-Young’s popularity. Both she and Penny Wong would add a few percent to their party totals in SA for sure.

  31. “So something terribly wrong with that chart, whether you like it or not.”


    Yes, we have established that the TPP is off lol. You should read up the thread.

  32. Yet another Election where voters use the Greens as a conduit for voting Labor in the end.

    Greens will sprout their primary. But, once again, have nothing much to show for it.

    Thanks for all the preferences!

  33. @Ven says:
    Sunday, March 20, 2022 at 3:52 pm

    Yes. If you look under the Preference count you will see their is one more booth to report preferences.

  34. Outsider,
    Yep and I reckon a similar 4:2 left-right split will occur in Tasi and just maybe in WA. I was hoping for the same in Vic, if the latest 60:40 Morgan result is any guide, but forget about it after last week’s events. Besides, they haven’t even done preselections there yet. So 3:3 at best.

  35. SA statewide results, not to mention Unley and other metro areas are looking like bad news for ALP fanatics hoping for a Greens backslide in May. Instead it’s looking like Greens are indeed on track to having MPs than ever. Could throw a spanner in the works if Albo decides to frack a backyard near you or strike a union-less ‘accord’ with the BCoA on Australian wages, like Malinauskas seems to want with Business SA. And what about the RDA, tax cuts for the rich, fossil fuel subsidies etc? Will Kristina Kirscher Keneally still be allowed to imprison refugees for decades on a desert island? Bleak 🙁

  36. From Antony Green’s blog
    “1:10pm – Labor and Independent scrutineers are arguing that Liberal Alexander Hyde cannot win Waite. The Greens have polled 12% and their prefererences overwhelmngly favour Independent Heather Holmes-Ross allowing her to pass Sam Duluk. They then report that a quarter of Duluk’s preferences leak to Holmes-Ross, which puts her neck and neck with Labor’s Catherine Hutchesson. Then there are strong flows between those two candidates whichever is excluded first, though Labor’s flows to Holmes-Ross would clearly be stronger.

    Hyde’s Liberal first preferences vote is only 24.5%. Even with 100% of Duluk’s preferences, their combined vote is only around 43%, and the scrutineer report is Duluk’s preferences are leaking. Perhaps the pre-poll and postal votes may shift the balance of the count, but it is likely that we will not know the winner in Waite until the full distribution of preferences.

    I have no records in this area, but if Holmes-Ross does win, I know that I have never seen a candidate win from fourth place.”

  37. [SA statewide results, not to mention Unley and other metro areas are looking like bad news for ALP fanatics hoping for a Greens backslide in May.]

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