South Australian election wrap-up

The South Australian election guide has now been put to bed with each electorate entry appended with a detailed post-match summary. For the first time, I have taken the effort to carefully scrutinise booth results in each seat. Heavy-duty hair-splitters might care to note that I was compelled to base these comparisons on incomplete election night figures from 2002 as the State Electorate Office did not update the two-party preferred booth results on its website beyond that point. They could only be obtained from the Statistical Returns document which, being a PDF file, could not readily be pasted into Excel. As a result, booth comparisons might be out by 1 per cent or so. As you’re all no doubt aware, the last two seats that were in doubt resulted in the re-election of the Liberals’ Graham Gunn in Stuart and Labor-turned-Greens-turned-independent MP Kris Hanna in Mitchell. To the best of my knowledge, the only observer who publicly predicted the latter outcome was Poll Bludger commenter Dave S.

The upper house has passed without comment on this site since the days immediately after the election, but the final result was as predicted then – four Labor, three Liberal, two No Pokies, one Family First and one Greens. The SEO doesn’t have a breakdown of the preference distribution, but we can always plug the results into the election calculator at Upperhouse.Info, bearing in mind that it irons out the complication of below-the-line votes. All but the Family First and Greens candidates were elected off the primary vote, after which Family First had 0.60 of a quota, the Greens 0.51, the third No Pokies candidate (who reportedly promised his wife he had no chance of winning) 0.46, the fifth Labor candidate 0.31 and the Australian Democrats 0.21. Family First were boosted to a quota after distribution of preferences from minor candidates and the fourth Liberal. That left the Greens on 0.56, the Democrats and No Pokies on 0.48 and Labor on 0.41. If the Democrats had been able to persuade Labor to put them ahead of No Pokies, Labor’s subsequent elimination would have put Kate Reynolds ahead of the Greens and subsequently back into parliament with No Pokies preferences. Instead, Labor’s elimination left the Democrats well to the rear of No Pokies and their own preferences delivered victory to Mark Parnell, the first South Australian Greens candidate ever to win a seat at an election.

One day, I will get around to producing retrospective guides to the South Australian upper house and the Tasmanian election. Speaking of Tasmania, the next item of business is the periodical Legislative Council elections for the seats of Rowallan (a lay-down misere for independent incumbent Greg Hall) and Wellington (a taller order for Labor member Doug Parkinson), which will be held on May 6.

UPDATE: If you’re looking for more of a big-picture view of the South Australian election, you could do a lot worse than this paper by Geoff Anderson and Haydon Manning of Flinders University for the Australian National University’s Democratic Audit. Of particular interest is the graph on page three indicating a clear long-term trend of increasing minor party voting in the upper house. Upperhouse.Info sheds more light on this with a table outlining the "desertion rates" of parties’ supporters switching their vote in the upper house. In view of all this, it is clear why Mike Rann would like to abolish the chamber through a referendum he plans to hold in conjunction with the next election. It is equally clear that while The Advertiser might be dopey enough to support abolition, the public will not be.

Super Saturday live

11.28pm. Okay, one last thing – Geoff Lambert notes in comments that Labor’s surplus over the fourth quota for the upper house is going steadily down, which suggests it will be their preferences that decide the final spot. If so, it will go to the Greens rather than the third No Pokies candidate. Keep your eye on the comments thread, where Geoff will hopefully keep you posted on further developments.

11.26pm. That will do for me for now, although I might come back later to crunch some Tasmanian numbers. I believe the SEO has wrapped things up for the evening – on present indications, it seems my election guide called all seats correctly except for the independent victories in Mount Gambier (certain) and Mitchell (likely). Not a bad effort, if I do say so myself. No doubt that scoundrel Charles Richardson at Crikey (the only other person silly enough to publish seat-by-seat predictions, to my knowledge) went one better, but I cannot say because my Crikey email mysteriously failed to arrive on Friday.

10.58pm. Graham Gunn is now behind in Stuart by 1.0 per cent, on the reckoning of both the SEO and Antony Green. I’m guessing that the Port Augusta booths followed the broader trend more closely than the small rural and remote booths that were coming in earlier.

10.54pm. Antony Green has Liberal leading by 1.4 per cent in Unley, compared with 0.5 per cent at the SEO.

10.48pm. Finally, some new figures for Mitchell – the count is now up to 73.1 per cent after being stuck on 50.4 per cent for about an hour. The figures haven’t changed much – Kris Hanna is on 25.8 per cent compared with 20.8 per cent for the Liberals, with Labor on 40.7 per cent. Wisely, the SEO has scrubbed its old Labor versus Liberal 2PP figure, but it hasn’t replaced it with anything. Those still look like winning figures for Hanna to me. Antony Green’s computer still has "ALP ahead" on the basis of out-of-date figures. An ABC news report reveals Labor’s candidate sounds less than confident.

10.42pm. I’m still getting a seat for the Greens, and so are the default entries at Upperhouse.Info which have been updated on the basis on recent figures. Geoff is saying almost all Democrats preferences will need to go to the Greens if they are to stay against Labor’s fifth candidate and No Pokies’ third. As useful as the Upperhouse.Info calculator is, it suffers a weakness in that it assumes all Democrats votes will do so. In fact, the total number of candidates is much smaller than at the 2002 election, which means there will be more votes going below the line this time. I would think that more below-the-line Democrats voters would favour No Pokies than Labor – enough to close the narrow existing gap of 0.56 to 0.53, assuming most of them don’t favour the Greens. That third No Pokies candidate is not out of the hunt yet.

10.30pm. Geoff Lambert, who is way better with numbers than I am, questions my earlier calculation that the Greens are up for the eleventh upper house seat. Time for me to do another calculation I think.

10.20pm. I made a good call with my last-minute decision to provide live commentary. I believe we’ve broken a record for most comments on a Poll Bludger discussion thread.

10.12pm. SA: The SEO has the Liberal lead in Unley at only 0.5 per cent on 2PP. Antony Green’s computer, which is rarely wrong from 72.8 per cent of the vote, still has it down as Liberal retain. But could it be that it’s underestimating the strength of preferences to Labor? Does the SEO have actual rather than notional preference figures?

10.06pm. Tasmania: Interesting to hear the victory and concession speeches. Where these are usually given to the party faithful, in Tasmania they are conducted before a crowd of all comers at Wrest Point Casino, and hoots and jeers can be heard amid the amidst the applause.

9.57pm. SA: Things are strangely quiet on the Mitchell front, as far as News Radio and the SEO go. Does anyone know anything? Graham Gunn’s lead in Stuart has weakend to 0.7 per cent on 2pp.

9.44pm. SA: Second-hand reports say the ABC computer has upper house figures with more than 60 per cent counted, and the No Pokies vote has more than held up.

9.37pm. SA: I’ve done my own calculations on the upper house so the percentages make sense. Only two No Pokies now; Labor four; Liberal three; Family First one; Greens take the seat that went missing from No Pokies.

9.28pm. SA: About 18 per cent counted in the upper house – bizarrely, the SEO’s percentage figures add up to more than 100. I have tried plugging them into the Upperhouse.Info calculator regardless and I get THREE seats for No Pokies, who are on a spectacular 19.3 per cent, only three for the Liberals, four for Labor, one for Family First.

9.20pm. SA: Bob Such’s excellent performance in Fisher has been called to my attention. He’s on 49.4 per cent of the vote and the Liberals are in third place, and in no danger of closing the gap over Labor. The SEO’s 2PP figure is Such versus Liberal – understandable, but wrong.

9.17pm. SA: The SEO 2PP figures have added a bit more fat to Graham Gunn’s lead, now on 1.3 per cent. He actually trails 44.4 per cent to 46.6 per cent on the primary vote, but is obviously doing well out of preferences from Family First’s 4.0 per cent (or perhaps, is expected to do well – not sure if the preferences are actual or notional).

9.13pm. SA: They’re about to interview Rory McEwen on ABC Television. Dean Jaensch is pretty much calling Mount Gambier for him.

9.11pm. Tasmania: Another commenter notes that the Labor vote in Bass is boosted by Michelle O’Byrne’s left-wing support base, and that many of these votes will leak to the Greens. So Kim Booth’s position might be brighter than it appears at first glance.

9.09pm. SA: I misunderstood David Walsh’s earlier point. The significance of the high Greens vote in Kavel is not that they will have Family First last behind Liberal, but that they will feed preferences to Labor that will deprive Playford of second place.

9.07pm. SA: Dean Jaensch on ABC Television via News Radio notes a remarkably good overall performance for Family First and the Australian Democrats down by two-thirds.

9.05pm. SA: Hold the front page – a possible shock in Mitchell. Thanks for commenters for pointing it out, I haven’t heard it mentioned elsewhere. Independent incumbent Kris Hanna holds second place over the Liberals by 25.5 per cent to 21.0 per cent, with Labor on 40.7 per cent. Those look like winning figures for Hanna for me, unless Family First (5.1 per cent) and Dignity for Disabled (2.1 per cent) run very heavily against Hanna.

9.01pm. SA: The SEO 2PP from Mount Gambier is making more sense now. McEwen leads the Libs 56.1-43.9 – only 36.8 per cent counted, but it probably still answers my earlier question.

8.59pm. Both: A summary of remaining points of interest. Will Labor win a third seat from the Greens in Bass? Will the Liberals win one from Labor in Franklin? Will Graham Gunn hold Stuart for the Liberals against all odds? Will independent Rory McEwen hold Mount Gambier? What have I missed?

8.52pm. Tasmania: Haven’t heard much about Denison. Apparently Michael Hodgman will win the only seat certain to go to the Liberals. Peg Putt to be returned but her running mate Cassy O’Connor has not pulled a rabbit out of the hat, but the big Greens surplus will presumbly get a third candidate up at the expense of the Liberals’ second.

8.51pm. Tasmania: Someone on ABC Radio, I think Nick McKim, says he’s still confident Kim Booth will hold his seat in Bass.

8.49pm. SA: Maybe those SEO 2PP figures from Kavel were right after all – David Walsh notes in comments that the Greens are on a substantial 9 per cent in Kavel, and these are presumably running hard against Family First.

8.44pm. SA: I’ve been quieter lately because News Radio has been giving us the second half of a call-of-the-board from ABC Radio in Adelaide. Here we go: Labor swing of 5.1 per cent in Morphett. Antony Green says Rory McEwen is likely to retain Mount Gambier (damn – my only wrong call, but the look of it). Labor swing of almost 10 per cent in their safe seat of Napier. Swing to Labor of 12.9 per cent in the formerly Liberal seat of Newland. Labor swing of about 5 per cent in Norwood. Swing of 14.8 per cent in the safe Labor seat of Playford. Swing of only 4.0 per cent in safe Labor Port Adelaide. Mike Rann’s seat of Ramsay swings 7.1 per cent. Reynell, formerly not that safe, swings 14.0 per cent to Labor. Safe Liberal Barossa Valley seat of Schubert swings 7.1 per cent, with Labor’s primary vote up about 14 per cent. A surprise against the trend in Stuart, with Antony’s computer showing Liberal mega-veteran Graham Gunn holding his seat from an initial margin of barely 2 per cent (if so, another wrong call). It’s being noted that a solid One Nation vote from last time has disappeared. Safe Labor Taylor swings 8 per cent. Safe Labor Torrens swings 13.8 per cent. Liberal to hold Unley. Waite stays with the Liberals despite a swing of 8 per cent. Safe Labor West Torrens swings yet further. Marginal Labor Wright swings heavily to Labor.

8.42pm. Tasmania. Charles Richardson corrects me on Bass. It seems Labor are winning that seat from the Greens, not the Libs. The Greens will be down to two seats if so.

8.34pm. SA: Not sure how seriously to take these 2PP figures from the SEO (neither is one of the commenters), but Labor’s margin in the formerly Liberal seat of Light is 14.1 per cent.

8.27pm. While in SA, the star female performer has been Chloe Fox, who has won Bright with a swing of nearly 15 per cent.

8.25pm. Tasmania: At last – I can hear Antony Green on News Radio (they’re flitting around from radio to television coverage, and Antony’s on the latter). It indeed looks like the Liberals might drop a seat to Labor in Bass. He seems to be backing Labor to win a seat off the Liberals in Bass and is not writing off their third candidate in Franklin. The star of the evening looks to be Michelle O’Byrne, who might just end up being responsible for an increased Labor majority despite an overall 2 per cent drop on the primary vote and a 4 per cent increase for the Liberals. Christine Milne sounds very unhappy about the Exclusive Brethren business.

8.22pm. SA: Commenter Scott says Kevin Foley has said Labor leads every booth in the marginal Liberal seat of Morialta on the primary vote. An extraordinary result – Labor had put it about earlier in the campaign that they weren’t doing so well there.

8.19pm. SA: You may recall talk of Tom Playford, Family First candidate and son of the legendary Liberal Premier, might win the seat of Kavel. The Liberals are on 47.0 per cent, so it’s not likely, but he is at least looking good to clear the first hurdle as he leads Labor 20.0 per cent to 19.6 per cent. I’m not sure about these SEO 2PP figures – they have the Liberals leading Playford 64.4-35.6. Still, there’s only 11.2 per cent counted and maybe they’re factoring in booth variations. Yet more talk of extrordinary results for Nick Xenophon in the upper house.

8.17pm. SA: Nationals candidate Kym McHugh has faded in Finniss and now trails Labor 20.6 per cent to 29.4. The SEO 2PP has McHugh ahead of Liberal 1.9 per cent, but it’s looking like the final contest will in fact be between Liberal and Labor, with McHugh’s preferences giving it to the Libs.

8.15pm. SA: The SEO has Labor ahead just 50.1-49.9 on 2PP in Stuart.

8.13pm. SA: Does anyone know anything about Mount Gambier? The SEO has the Liberals leading Rory McEwen 55.1-44.9 on 2CP, but that’s not my reading from the primary vote with McEwen well ahead of Labor and only slightly behind the Liberals.

8.11pm. SA: First, very small figures from the upper house reportedly show an extraordinarily high vote for Nick Xenophon and the Liberals, in the words of Chris Schacht, possibly struggling for a fourth seat – an unprecedent failure if correct.

8.10pm. Tasmania: Big figures now up in Franklin, with nearly 70 per cent counted. Labor’s primary vote is now down to 47.0 per cent while the Liberals are on 31.2 per cent – so Labor are 3.0 per cent short of a third quota and Liberal are 2.1 per cent of a second. I personally would not be writing off Labor from holding off a third seat, but that doesn’t seem to be the general perception.

8.04pm. Tasmania: ALP apparatchik David O’Byrne says Labor is likely to win a seat off the Greens in Bass because the popularity of his sister, Michelle O’Byrne, is likely to bring another member across the line at the expense of Kim Booth. That member would almost certainly be Steve Reissig. So the most likely overall outcome as far as I can see is that the Labor loses a seat to the Liberals in Franklin and gains one from the Greens in Bass, and the total goes from 14-4-7 to 14-3-8.

8.00pm. Tasmania: Taking a step back, the only variation from the status quo that anyone is discussing is the possible loss of a Labor seat in Franklin. So unless I’m missing something, Labor look likely to retain their majority.

7.58pm. SA: Newland is clearly a shocker for the Liberals – a third of the vote counted and Labor on 61.2 per cent of the primary vote.

7.57pm. SA: It’s certainly not clear that Labor will win Stuart, from what I can see. The website has 16 per cent of the vote counted and Graham Gunn on 51.9 per cent. But that could be because the big Port Augusta booths are not in yet, and the tide will turn heavily when they are.

7.55pm. SA: Early figures from Mount Gambier, 6.0 per cent, and independent member Rory McEwen is doing better than expected with 46.2 per cent of the vote. It’s hard to see how he could lose from there, given that Labor are on 22.3 per cent. The ABC computer apparently predicts two independents, which I gather does not include Karlene Maywald. It also has Labor on 29 seats, which suggests that one of my calls for Labor is not looking certain. No idea which one though.

7.53pm. Tasmania: Finally more figures from Franklin, the count up to 17.9 per cent. Labor are down to 48.9 per cent, so still at least some chance of retaining three seats, although Paula Wreidt is definitely in danger. The Greens’ Nick McKim looks secure. Vanessa Goodwin would most likely be a new Liberal member.

7.51pm. Tasmania: The ABC says the swing against Labor is fading from about 4 per cent to 2 per cent, with the Liberals up 4 per cent, with the Greens down 2 per cent.

7.51pm. SA: Clearly my guess about that early Unley booth was on the money. Commenter Scott says the swing is only 3 per cent (from just 3.2 per cent of the count) and Dean Jaensch is saying Liberal retain.

7.5opm. Tasmania: Bearing in mind that the ABC has twice as many votes counted as are being published on the Electoral Commission site.

7.49pm. Tasmania: Labor’s vote is coming down in Bass, now down to 48.9 per cent. A 2-2-1 result is looking more likely, but 3-1-1- is still possible.

7.47pm. Tasmania: Results are slow to come through in Denison and Franklin. ABC Radio says 26 per cent is counted and Labor’s total vote is down about 4 per cent and the Liberals up about 6 per cent.

7.45pm. SA: A commenter (onya Scott – anyone else out there?) says the swing to Labor in the marginal Liberal seat of Mawson is a relatively subdued 5 per cent, still enough to cost them the seat.

7.44pm. SA: Only 3.2 per cent counted in Unley, but Labor leads 47.0 per cent to 40.5 per cent. Maybe this is from the Labor-leaning Goodwood area of the electorate. Liberal Hartley MP Joe Scalzi is on ABC Radio and doesn’t sound too confident. One of his interviewers is telling him he’s lost.

7.42pm. SA: Antony Green’s computer says the overall swing to Labor is 8.4 per cent, and their commenter is talking of 30 seats which is what I had predicted.

7.41pm. SA: Chris Schacht is only talking of a maximum of 28 seats, although he may be restraining himself. He says Hartley is not in the bag.

7.40pm. SA: The Liberals are all but conceding defeat in Norwood, which had been the subject of excited talk of a Liberal gain in the past few days.

7.36pm. Tasmania: Greens member Nick McKim says they are confident they will hold their seat in Bass.15 per cent in from Lyons – Labor holding up well, down only 1 per cent, but the Liberals are up 7 per cent. Perhaps this is where that overall swing is coming from. Labor will win three seats if they stay above 50 per cent, so it’s possible that the Greens will lose their seat despite a solid 14.2 per cent. A second Liberal winner would most certainly be Geoff Page. Someone has just said on ABC Radio that the Greens will not win a seat in Braddon, the only electorate where they do not do so currently, and that it will again by three Labor, two Liberal.

7.33pm. ABC Radio is talking about an overall Liberal increase of 7 per cent, which is more than what I’m seeing.

7.32pm. Tasmania: We’re now up to an almost meaningful 16.5 per cent of the count in Bass. The Liberals have only picked up about 1 per cent from Labor and the Greens are down 1 per cent. Last time the Liberals were very lucky to win two seats here, and may only narrowly do so again. If there is a third Labor winner it is likely to be Steve Reissig. On the Liberal ticket, Peter Gutwein leads former party leader Sue Napier 1386 to 990, with Napier having an uncomfortably narrow lead over David Fry, a former member who lost his seat in 2002.

7.30pm. SA: A talking head on ABC Television (I’m hearing this from News Radio so I can’t see who it is) is stalking as if Liberal veteran Graham Gunn is going to lose Stuart. The figures on the website have Gunn on 55.4 per cent, but that’s from 6.2 per cent of the vote and probably from booths away from the big towns.

7.28pm. Tasmania: About 5 per cent counted in Denison and the Greens are leading the Liberals, by enough to put a second Greens candidate (Cassy O’Connor) well into contention if it keeps up. Labor’s vote has plunged from 51 per cent to 39 per cent, but it’s too early to reach definite conclusions.

7.25pm. A closer look at Finniss: the Nationals are ahead of Labor, 19.9 per cent to 17.9 per cent, and presumably will pull in most of their preferences. The Liberals are on 41.2 per cent, still a winnable position, but this seat is one to keep an eye on.

7.23pm. Chris Schacht says there is a double-digit swing to Labor in Newland, held by the Liberals by about 5.5 per cent. Clearly we have a massacre on our hands here.

7.23pm. A bombshell from Finniss: Chris Pyne says Nationals candidate Kym McHugh is taking it right up to the Liberals.

7.22pm. Antony Green now on ABC Radio reeling through consistent Labor swings across various electorates of between 6 and 14 per cent.

7.20pm. SA: Stuart (the outback plus Port Augusta) reportedly swinging only slightly to Labor. The margin’s roughly 2 per cent, so this one could be tight.

7.17pm. Tasmania: 5 per cent now in from Franklin, and Labor’s primary vote is actually unchanged on 51 per cent despite the talk from earlier exit polls. Also little change for the Liberals (up about 1 per cent to 24 per cent) and the Greens (up about 1 per cent to 21 per cent). So talk of either Paula Wriedt or Lara Hiddings losing their seat may have been premature. Hiddings leads Wriedt, so the latter is indeed likely to be the casualty if there is one.

7.15pm. Pyne concedes the booth in question (the info here is from scrutineers, so these figures are not through yet) is quintessential middle class, and Chris Schacht says Labor has not won it in 20 years.

7.13pm. Federal Liberal MP Chris Pyne says there is a double-digit Labor swing in the marginal Liberal seat of Bright. Goodnight Irene.

7.13pm. South Australia: talk of a 7 per cent Labor swing in the marginal Labor seat of Croydon.

7.12pm. Still no meaningful results from Franklin in Tasmania, but now up to 7 per cent in Lyons. That exit poll’s looking good – Labor is indeed down by 5 per cent, but the Liberals are up 7 per cent and the Greens are down 1.5 per cent, but again, these are probably conservative booths. The distribution of the Labor vote among the candidates has remained the same.

7.09pm. Only 2.6 per cent counted, but in South Australia’s safest Liberal seat, Flinders, the Nationals vote is doubling from about 8 per cent to about 16 per cent. But Liberal member Liz Penfold is still well over 50 per cent.

7.05pm. In South Australia (I’m using Tasmanian time here, I’m afraid), former Labor Senator Chris Schacht says the Collinswood booth, in the only area of Enfield that is not extremely safe for Labor, is widely seen as a litmus test, and has swung heavily to Labor.

7.03pm. 2.73 per cent counted in Lyons. Labor incumbent Heather Butler is only slightly ahead of the other two Labor candidates, whereas Michael Polley and David Llewellyn look sure to be re-elected. Incumbents from the other parties (Rene Hidding for Liberal and Tim Morris for the Greens) comfortably lead their tickets. Overall, Labor are down 4 per cent, Liberal up 9 per cent and the Greens down 3 per cent, but these are probably conservative booths.

7.00pm. With 2.45 per cent counted in Braddon, there is no indication yet that either of the two Labor newcomers overcoming sitting member Brendon Best, as has been suggested. The main story in this seat is whether the Greens can win a seat, which they did not do last time. Overall, Labor is well down here and the Liberals well up, such that the Liberals lead 47.2 per cent to 40.5 per cent, but this is almost certainly because the results are from small conservative rural booths.

6.54pm. Results are starting to trickle in in Tasmania, though only 1.04 per cent counted. Michelle O’Byrne leads out of the Labor ticket in Bass with sitting member Jim Cox second and daylight third. On the totals, Labor are down about 3 per cent to the Greens with the Liberals stable. No idea where these booths are unfortunately.

6.48pm. Liberal Senator Guy Barnett is conceding Labor is likely to retain three seats in Denison, as they will need an extra 10 per cent of their vote. So the return of Labor’s David Barnett and Graeme Sturges and Peg Putt seems a foregone conclusion. There will be intra-party contests between a number of Labor candidates and Michael Hodgman and Fabian Dixon of the Liberals.

6.46pm. That exit poll reportedly has Labor down 5 per cent across the state and the Liberals up 3 per cent.

6.35pm. What the hell, I’ll do live commentary. I might get bored and give up, but we’ll see how we go. Polls closed in South Australia five minutes ago, and in Tasmania 35 minutes ago. ABC Radio says exit polls show Labor will lose one of their three seats in Franklin. The talk is that Paula Wriedt is more likely to lose her seat than Lara Giddings – obviously Paul Lennon is safe. If Labor loses two seats, they will lose their majority.

Last orders

Peter Brent at Mumble tells me that I have tipped Labor to win 29 seats from 47, which I had never bothered to tally up before. Make it 30 – a quarter of an hour from the close of polls, be it noted that I have also thrown in Newland. A Labor insider quoted in The Australian today expressed amazement that the Liberals have been "doing f..k all" in the electorate – I can only speculate what the missing two letters might have been. That leaves 15 for the Liberals, one independent (Bob Such to be returned in Fisher) and one Nationals (Karlene Maywald to be returned in Chaffey).

The late mail

It’s way past my bedtime, so readers will have to make what they will of the following last-minute poll results. Tomorrow I will reconsider my South Australian election guide assessments one last time, and most likely make a few adjustments in Labor’s favour.

Firstly, today’s Newspoll for South Australia:

Secondly, today’s Advertiser poll:

Thirdly, yesterday’s Newspoll for Tasmania:

Finally, yesterday’s Taspoll results from The Mercury.

Surprised by Roy

No Advertiser poll today – presumably they are holding back for tomorrow. Roy Morgan has produced its traditional day-before poll, but it’s hard to take seriously even by their standards. The sample is a mere 420, and the surveys were conducted "on the weekends between February 4/5 and March 11/12". Separate results are provided for the periods "before election announcement" and "after election announcement", although the former figures are too out-of-date to be of any conceivable interest. The results are at least consistent, with all Morgan’s figures from this year putting Labor on an impossible 50.5 per cent of the primary vote. The Liberals have actually faded during the campaign, from 33 per cent in the previous poll to 30.5 per cent in the latter period of the current one. This one’s going straight in the bin.

In today’s Advertiser, Greg Kelton says that "Labor sources claim their internal polling shows them with a very good chance of winning outer suburban seats such as Newland, Bright, Mawson and Light", giving further reason to think they will not win Hartley and Morialta, as the Poll Bludger election guide currently predicts.

Norwood from the trees

Election punditry has been an agreeably straightforward matter during the South Australian campaign, with published opinion polling and reported internal polls all pointing in much the same direction. That’s all changed with two polls in today’s Advertiser covering the neighbouring electorates of Norwood and Hartley, located due east of the city. Taken on Tuesday and covering around 500 voters in each electorate, the polls suggest the Liberals are well in contention to gain the former and likely to retain the latter.

Rightly or wrongly, the Poll Bludger is reluctant to junk his overall hypothesis on the basis of one poll, although it has to be noted that it’s the first to be published since the Liberals’ major policy announcements, campaign launch and belated television advertisements. The straw at which I will grasp is the steady rise in the undecided vote across the Norwood polling, which has now reached a remarkable 18 per cent. If the universal expectation of a Labor win is encouraging swinging voters to think again, it might be that a shift in the polls will be enough to bring them back on board. It’s also worth mentioning that the result is consistent with reports of Labor polling showing it on course to win seats in the outer suburban mortgage belt, but making less headway nearer the city. Other noteworthy local factors are a tradition of last-minute swings to the Liberals in Norwood, where Ciccarello had an unexpectedly close run in 2002, and the stubbornness of booths in the southern part of Hartley (the more middle-class and white-bread part of the electorate) which have a tradition of resisting broader Labor swings at both state and federal elections.

These promise to be the first in a flurry of polls over the final days of the campaign. A comment left on this site indicates that The Advertiser was conducting further polling yesterday, so it should have more results up its sleeve tomorrow, presumably statewide this time. Roy Morgan should put what remains of its reputation on the line tomorrow, with Newspoll to follow on Saturday morning. If they all point to a big swing back to the Liberals, a wholesale revision might be in order. Until then, two seats have been given back to the Liberals in the Poll Bludger election guide, although not the two covered by the poll. They are Unley, a normally safe Liberal seat just south of the city which could only have fallen under a Labor best-case scenario, and Mount Gambier, where the buzz locally suggests sitting independent Rory McEwen will struggle to stay ahead of the Labor candidate, whose preferences he will need to overcome Liberal challenger Peter Gandolfi.

Some further additions to the election guide:

Light (Liberal 2.6%): Liberal member Malcolm Buckby has become a target of Labor ads publicising a statement he made at a meeting at Northside Church in Gawler, which was told that while the Liberals would "try to maintain the promises we put out to the electorate running up to the election … not every one is going to be delivered". The Liberals have protested that he was referring in part to the potential for obstruction by the upper house (although there doesn’t appear to be anything about this in the full transcript released today to The Advertiser), and accused Labor of reaching "a new low by secretly filming part of a church service and using it in a political advertisement". The church concurs, telling The Advertiser today that its hospitality had been abused by Labor.

Unley (Liberal 9.1%): The Electoral Commission has forced Liberal candidate David Pisoni to withdraw a radio advertisement critical of "Labor’s infill plan" and its impact on suburban housing density. This has not been the only stumble related to the Liberals’ advertising campaign. Today, The Advertiser reports that the Liberals have been compelled to amend a television advertisement, correcting a claim that South Australia had the country’s "worst waiting lists" to "worst emergency waiting times". An earlier ad had to be corrected because it misspelled Labor.

Out of the box

As the South Australian election campaign limps into the home strait, the re-election of Mike Rann’s Labor government appears as much a foregone conclusion as ever. That’s despite earlier reports that Labor hard-heads were worried about what the Liberals might have up their sleeve in the final week, for which the cash-strapped party has been waiting before unloading its television commercials (except in Mount Gambier – more on that below). Unlike Labor’s ads, these are not available on the party website, so the Poll Bludger is not aware if they have landed any surprise killer blows. Despite good press last week for Liberal policies to build a highway between Adelaide and Victor Harbour and give first home buyers a $3000 grant (on top of the $7000 already provided by the federal government), the nervous talk from the Labor camp was probably an attempt to manage expectations. It was contradicted by a report in The Weekend Australian saying Labor was "confident of capturing Adelaide’s outer suburbs", where internal polling shows Mike Rann’s campaign pitch had "resonated".

One television advertisement that has raised eyebrows has been Labor’s effort showing a flat-footed Rob Kerin mumbling and bumbling in response to a query as to why he wants to be Premier. Internet surveys conducted by Graham Young of On Line Opinion have prompted him to tell Adelaide’s Independent Weekly that voters have been left cold by the ad:

Labor has been riding high in the polls, but the party’s recent advertisements that take a vicious swipe at Rob Kerin’s leadership of the Liberal Party have not been well accepted by voters. As a consequence, the standing of Premier Rann has been lowered, according to our latest state election focus group and questionnaire responses. Even more alarming for Labor is that the ads have left Kerin almost unscathed, and will also guarantee stronger votes for independents and minor parties in the Legislative Council. But still the Liberals are yet to put forward a proposition that voters will buy.

Having only just got around to viewing the infamous ad, I suspect there might be a gap between voters’ conscious reaction to it and its effect on their voting behaviour. During my visit to Adelaide a fortnight ago, I told a stunned hotel owner that I was there to observe the election campaign. After he recovered, the first point he could think to make was the very point the ad is making – that Kerin gives the impression he would be happier in opposition. And it is an axiom of election campaigning (for me at least) that the most effective advertisements are those that reinforce existing perceptions. In this respect, the use of Kerin’s first name in the ad’s punchline ("does Rob really want the job?") seems like a nice touch, emphasising the popular view that Kerin is a good bloke who doesn’t have the steel in his spine to meet the demands of leadership.

I happen to be reading a book at the moment by American academics Stephen Ansolabehere, Roy Behr and Shanto Iyengar called The Media Game: American Politics in the Television Age, which makes the following observation about the 1988 presidential campaign:

Immediately after the Republican convention, the Bush campaign began an unrelenting attack on Dukakis’s positions on major issues, his record as governor of Massachusetts, and his commitment to basic American values. Inexplicably, the Dukakis campaign failed to respond directly to these charges for over a month. Most post-mortems of the 1988 presidential campaign emphasised the significant payoffs to Bush that resulted from the Dukakis campaign’s inability or unwillingness to confront these ads. The Dukakis campaign violated Roger Ailes’s first axiom of advertising strategy: "Once you get punched, you punch back".

"Punching back" is the very antithesis of Kerin’s style, and such negative campaigning as there has been from the Liberals has played the ball rather than the man. Ansolabehere, Behr and Iyengar ultimately conclude that the main effect of attack ads is to dampen voter turnout, but this of course is not a consideration under compulsory voting. A local variant on the effect might be to drive up the vote for minor parties and independents, and here Young’s assessment sounds on the money.

It does appear that there is one card the Liberals can play in the final days, and for all I know their television ads may be doing just this. It relates to fiscal responsibility and taxation, and the dividend available to them by virtue of their dangerous promise earlier in the campaign to cut 4000 jobs from the public service. By contrast, Labor’s promises – which, in the estimation of Michelle Wiese Bockmann of The Australian, "account for $700 million over four years" – are to be funded largely by "efficiencies". Combined with discontent over land tax, the Liberals have the opportunity to at least narrow the gap with a credible pitch at the hip pocket nerve.

Some recent and future updates to the election guide:

Mount Gambier (Independent 25.0% vs Liberal): Allan Scott, millionaire trucking magnate and publisher of the Border Watch newspaper, has stood down editor Frank Morello after the Border Watch ran a number of articles on Friday seen to be critical of the Liberal Party and its candidate, Peter Gandolfi. The move has also prompted the sudden resignation of Lechelle Earl, the writer of the articles and the paper’s chief-of-staff. Craig Bildstein of The Advertiser wrote on Saturday that "everyone The Advertiser spoke to suspects millionaire businessman Allan Scott is the chief financier" of a local Liberal campaign that has been "flush with funds", with "widespread reports that the Liberals spent $50,000 on TV advertising between October and January". Yesterday The Advertiser reported that it "has learned that Labor candidate Brad Coates last week threatened to withdraw $6000 worth of advertising from the Border Watch because of concerns that the paper was ‘too pro-Liberal’".

Florey (Labor 3.6%), Newland (Liberal 5.5%) and Wright (Labor 3.2%): Labor has promised to take back control of Modbury Hospital (located in Florey, but of interest to Newland, Wright and other less marginal neighbours), which was sold to private operator Healthscope by Dean Brown’s Liberal government in 1995. An anti-privatisation assessment of the hospital’s history under Healthscope can be found on the University of Wollongong website. Concerns about standards at the hospital have been widely reported in recent weeks, with the Sunday Mail talking of "GPs earning at least $2400 a shift" to "supervise foreign interns at Modbury Hospital after staff complaints of potential risks to patients". The Liberals have put the cost to the government of Labor’s promise at $5 million a year.

Mawson (Liberal 3.5%), Heysen (Liberal 9.9%) and Finniss (Liberal 15.9%): The Liberals have made a keynote election promise to replace the notoriously dangerous road that currently links Adelaide and Victor Harbour with a $130 million four-lane highway. The announcement scored an encouraging front-page headline ("Kerin to fix killer road") in The Advertiser, a paper many have faulted for coverage that seems tailored to curtail the extent of Labor’s victory. The following day, Treasurer Kevin Foley accused the Liberals of being $200 million out on their costings, but Greg Kelton of The Advertiser reports that the Liberal estimate was supported by both the RAA and the Committee for Adelaide Roads.

Morialta (Liberal 3.6%): The Weekend Australian reported that Labor are less confident about Morialta than "mortgage belt" seats further from the city, specifically Mawson, Bright and Newland.

Unholy Sabbath polling

After last night’s sort-of-triumph in the Victoria Park by-election, the morning has brought two opinion polls to warm the Labor supporter’s heart. After a quiet week on the polling front from the previously prodigious Advertiser, its News Limited stablemate the Sunday Mail has published a survey of 607 voters showing Labor with 45 per cent of the decided vote against 37 per cent for the Liberals, for a two-party lead of 55-45 – which fits in nicely with this site’s election guide predictions.

In Tasmania, the Launceston Examiner has published the second EMRS poll of the campaign showing Labor’s statewide vote up on the previous survey from 40 per cent to 44 per cent, with the Liberals down from 33 per cent to 28 per cent and the Greens down from 22 per cent to 18 per cent, with 10 per cent undecided. I will ferret around to see if I can locate a table, so stay tuned.