Once more with feeling: Batman, SA, Tasmania

One last look at last month’s two state elections and one federal by-election.

Now the dust has settled, a considered review of the three big electoral events of March.


Labor’s win was ultimately more comfortable than it appeared on election, which has fed into the post-election speculation as to what it all means. For what it’s worth, a ReachTEL poll commissioned by a timber industry lobby group two days out from the election came within one point of accuracy on the two-party vote, and found Adani, health and education each recording about 20% on the question of most important campaign issue.

First the basic results:

A table further below zeroes into the count’s two curiosities, the first of which is the extent of Labor’s surge on late counting. The result is broken down into polling day votes, namely ordinary election day votes, provisional votes and (in the case of the 2016 election, to derive the swing) absent votes; pre-poll, which includes both the pre-poll voting centre booths and declaration pre-polls; and postals, which is just postals.

The fact that Labor didn’t do so well on the day has led suggestions that something must have happened late in the campaign to blunt Labor’s momentum, with the most obvious culprit being Labor’s dividend imputation policy. There may certainly be something in this, but the same pattern was evident in lesser degree at the Northcote by-election, at which the Greens’ swing was 1.9% weaker on pre-polls and 4.4% weaker on postals as compared with polling day votes, with the equivalent differences in Batman being 3.6% and 5.8%.

The second notable feature of the result was the disparity between the Labor-loyal northern end of the electorate and the Greens-leaning south. The former area did actually deliver the Greens the gentle swing they needed to win the seat, while the latter swung solidly to Labor – although there remains a 15.1% differential between the two, compared with 21.5% at the 2016 election. The table separately records votes cast north and south of Bell Street, and excludes votes where this cannot be discerned (postals and such).

South Australia

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South Australian election: late counting

Post tracking the progress of late counting in the South Australian state election.


Pardon me for missing an exciting day’s count in Mawson, where Leon Bignell appears to have held on – since my last update two days ago, the votes have broken 1003-909 his way, increasing his lead to 184. Only a small trickle of postal votes should be outstanding at this point.


Labor’s lead in Mawson now down to 90, as today’s update breaks 536-437 to Liberal, in near identical proportion to the first batch of 1940 declaration votes yesterday.

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Third time lucky

The cards finally land in the right places for the Liberals in South Australia, despite an overall swing in Labor’s favour.

The Liberals have finally managed to piece together a victory in South Australia, at the third successive election at which they won the statewide two-party vote. The election was actually won for them in the redistribution, which made four seats won by Labor in 2014 notionally Liberal, with only one going the other way. If the 2014 election had been held under the new boundaries, the Liberals would have made it to 25 seats out of 47 (albeit with a 0.1% margin in Newland), which as likely as not is where this election will leave them when the dust settles.

The Liberals only went into the election with 20 of the 22 seats they won in 2014, having suffered two defections to the cross bench: Troy Bell in Mount Gambier, who was re-elected yesterday as an independent, and Duncan McFetridge in Morphett, whose seat has reverted to the Liberals (UPDATE: Make that 19 – I forgot about Martin Hamilton-Smith, whose seat of Waite went back to the Liberals with his retirement). To the resulting base of 21 seats, the Liberals have certain gains in two of the four notionally Liberal seats, Colton and Elder. They are ahead in a third, Newland, and are likely to go down to the wire in the fourth, Mawson. With a further gain likely in the new seat of King, they appear all but certain of making it to a majority.

However, the Liberals have once again struggled to gain decisive swings against sitting Labor members. The three actual or potential Labor casualties were all in notional Liberal seats, and there were swings in favour of two of them, albeit insufficient ones. The other very likely gain, the northern Adelaide seat of King, was a new electorate contested by a neophyte Labor candidate. Furthermore, Labor may make a gain in the seat of Adelaide, where Liberal member Rachel Sanderson ended the night 67 votes ahead.

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South Australian election live

Live coverage of the count for the South Australian state election.

11.30pm. The Legislative Council vote has Labor and Liberal a clear three quotas each with SA Best on two, with the remaining three seats likely to land with the Greens and the number four candidates of Liberal and Labor. Remarkably, this means likely defeat for Robert Brokenshire of Australian Conservatives, which has failed where Family First succeeded at four successive elections. The party is on 3.6% of the statewide vote, compared with 4.4% for Family First in 2014, which no doubt reflects the success of SA Best in scoring 19% of the vote. This amounts to 0.43 quotas, and compares with the 0.56 quotas that will be left to Labor after the election of its third candidate. To elevate past Labor from losing twelfth place to winning eleventh, Brokenshire has to close a gap of 1% in late counting and preferences – the most likely path to which is a weak showing for Labor in late counting. Preferences are unlikely to feature, as neither Liberal nor the Greens will be fully excluded at the point where either Brokenshire or Labor’s number four are excluded.

Kelly Vincent of Dignity scored a fairly modest 2.0%, and will not be re-elected. Taking the newly elected members together with those carrying over from 2014, the numbers in the new chamber look like eight each for Liberal and Labor, two each for the Greens and SA Best, one for Australian Conservatives, and former Xenophon member John Darley, whose Advance SA party managed only 0.4%.

10.13pm. A case can be made that Jay Weatherill shouldn’t have conceded. The ABC computer now has Adelaide down as a squeaker, converting their raw 1.4% lead into a 2.4% swing to Labor and a Liberal winning margin of just 0.6%. Given the number of outstanding pre-poll votes that won’t be counted on Monday, this one is certainly in doubt. Beyond that, Labor is certainly unlikely to win King or Newland, where they respectively trail by 1.6% and 1.5%, but neither is an actual impossibility. Nor is SA Best out of the hunt in Heysen. That makes for any 21 seats that the Liberals have bolted down, and only one sure vote on the cross bench. The Liberals are highly likely to make it to 24 if not 25, but the pre-election warnings about the perils of calling the result on election night with so many pre-polls outstanding don’t seem to have been taken to heart.

9.39pm. Michael Atkinson observes that there has actually been a two-party swing to Labor in the order of 1.5%, which still leaves the Liberals with a 51.5-48.5 majority.

9.34pm. Heysen has just tipped from SA Best ahead to Liberal ahead on the ABC computer, and the Liberals have moved further ahead in Newland, where they now have a bigger lead than in Adelaide.

9pm. Slow counts in Black and Dunstan are finally gathering pace, and they have yielded no surprises. The Liberals look like they’ve done enough in Elder and King and have their nose in front in Newland. This collectively gets them to 24 even if they don’t win Heysen, although they’re not home yet in Newland. Beyond that, Troy Bell, who’s looking good in Mount Gambier, would give them any remaining vote they needed.

8.42pm. Waite no longer in doubt, according to the ABC computer.

8.30pm. There are 24 seats where the ABC computer has the Liberals ahead. It’s lineball for them in Elder and close in Newland, but on the other hand they might win Heysen. I’ve also just noticed that they still haven’t shaken Labor in Waite. Other qualifications: only early numbers from Black, although those are looking good for the Liberals; nothing in yet from Dunstan.

8.23pm. Antony Green and ABC panellists suggests Heysen more in doubt that headline numbers suggest, and it’s now clear Nick Xenophon won’t win Hartley.

8.19pm. Lee now not looking so good for the Liberals, but a small booth on two-party preferred suggests they are a chance in Enfield.

8.15pm. I’m seeing 25 seats which the Liberals can feel pretty confident about, and at least one conservative cross-bencher. So it would appear we are looking at a change of government here.

8.08pm. More substantial two-party numbers now in from Heysen, and it looks extremely close. I’m not quite sure what to make of the numbers from Hartley, in that the two-party result looks better for the Liberals than I would have figured from their 41.2% primary vote. Either Xenophon is doing poorly on preferences, in which case he’s toast, or he will lift when a few booths with primary vote numbers also report their two-party preferred.

7.59pm. Despite the fact that Labor looks like winning Mawson, some good news is poking through for the Liberals: they’re ahead in King and Lee, have clearly won Colton, are in no danger in Morphett. A lot may depend on Newland, which is lineball.

Haven’t yet made mention of King, which is looking good for the Liberals — new seat in northern Adelaide with lineball margin and no sitting member. Liberals also looking good in Lee, but not home yet.

7.54pm. SA Best have lost ground on the primary vote in Heysen since last I looked, but are still clear of Labor 24.2% to 19.2%, which should be enough. Liberal candidate Josh Teague is on 38.1%, which presumably won’t be enough if SA Best indeed finish clear of Labor. So that one’s looking good for them. However, Nick Xenophon will need to pick up the pace in Hartley: there’s 15% of the vote in, and the Liberal candidate is on 42.4%, which would likely be enough.

7.51pm. Cross bench watch: Frances Bedford a clear winner in Florey; Geoff Brock looking good in Frome; Troy Bell looking good in Mount Gambier; no results yet from Morphett. So there’s a cross bench of at least three, perhaps four or five if things go right for SA Best, and a potential one extra in Morphett. Labor’s promising early results in Colton have now washed away.

7.40pm. We seem to be looking at a status quo sort of result with both major parties on around 20 to 21. But a big variable is whether the Liberals fight off SA Best in Hartley and Heysen. The two-party count has been stuck in Heysen for a while, but the primary votes look encouraging for SA Best. Still not enough for a read in Hartley.

7.37pm. Good early numbers for Labor in Colton, and they’re looking good in Badcoe as well. Less good in Mawson though, and it’s very tight in Newland. Early alarm for the Liberals in Waite has faded.

7.30pm. Starting to look promising for SA Best in Heysen, where the Liberal vote is a dangerous 37.0%, and SA Best are well clear of Labor. Labor don’t look to be making hoped for breakthrough in the seat of Adelaide. Big swing to Labor in Waite with 15% counted, which would have seemed an unlikely prospect for them.

7.21pm. Another excellent result for Tony Piccolo in Light, where 15% of the vote is counted and he is on track for a big swing. Not looking good anywhere for SA Best that I can see — except perhaps in Hartley, where the very first numbers are lineball. In Labor versus Liberal contests, Mawson looks close; encouraging early for Labor in Newland.

7.09pm. I sadly remain preoccupied with Batman. Still too early to say much with confidence, except that SA Best are not about to do anything remarkable. Antony going through encouraging early numbers for Labor in Light, and for Troy Bell in Mount Gambier.

6pm. Polls have closed for the South Australian election. Very early results from small rural booths should start coming in shortly. For what it’s worth, an exit poll apparently finds 50.5-49.5 to Liberal, but I’m a bit lost here without further detail: sometimes this just means an opinion poll conducted on election day rather than exit polling proper; when it is exit polling, it’s usually from specific marginal seats and thus hard to say what the result means without knowing which ones they are.

Newspoll and ReachTEL: Liberal 34, Labor 31 in South Australia

A late poll from South Australia shows only that whoever ends up governing will do so from an historically low primary vote.

First up: if you have enjoyed my South Australian election coverage, you can show your appreciation through my PressPatron virtual tip jar, which you can access at the top of the page or at the bottom of each post.

In quick succession, we have had final statewide polls from Newspoll (for The Australian) and ReachTEL (for Sky News), and they are of one mind in having the Liberals leading Labor on the primary vote by 34% to 31%, and very nearly in accord with support for SA Best, which Newspoll has at 17% and ReachTEL has at 16%. Newspoll has the Greens on 8%; no figure is available from ReachTEL. In Newspoll’s case, the Liberals are up two on the poll a fortnight ago, Labor and the Greens are up one each, and SA Best is down four. Sky News also related that the ReachTEL poll had Labor leading 52-48 in a forced preference of undecided voters, although it’s hard to say what use that figure is exactly.

Both pollsters also asked what Nick Xenophon should do if he holds the balance of power, with rather different results. Newspoll respondents broke clearly for the Liberals, who were favoured by 52% compared with just 28% for Labor. However, ReachTEL also included a “party with the most votes” option that was favoured by 33%, compared with 35% for Labor and 32% for the Liberals. This may suggest awareness that it was the Liberals twice failed to win government after scoring higher vote shares than Labor in 2010 and 2014.

Newspoll’s personal ratings find Jay Weatherill steady on 33% approval and down one on disapproval to 53%; Steven Marshall up two to 30% and down four to 50%; Weatherill with a 38-33 head-to-head lead over Marshall as preferred premier, down from 38-31 last time; and an even balance on a three-way preferred premier question, on which Weatherill is up one to 29%, Marshall up three to 27% and Nick Xenophon down four to 25%.

I have now given my poll tracker what will presumably be its final update, and its reading naturally reflects closely the consensus of Newspoll and ReachTEL, albeit that the Liberals come in a little lower. Also for your convenience, the table below shows all the seat polling conducted through the campaign for The Advertiser by YouGov Galaxy. Click on the image for a clearer look.

South Australian election minus two days

Nick Xenophon wins debate, but loses favouritism in Hartley; Liberals told off by Electoral Commissioner; Labor cuts deal with Australian Conservatives.

Nothing new on the polling front, but other developments worth noting:

• A leaders’ debate last night, which was deemed to have been won by Nick Xenophon by 30% out of the audience of 106 undecided voters, compared with 22% for Steven Marshall and 19% for Jay Weatherill.

• Electoral Commissioner Mick Sherry has ruled in favour of a Labor complaint against Liberal Party electoral material promising a $302 cut in household power bills, and a Liberal complaint against Labor Senator Alex Gallacher’s claim that the Liberals had a “secret plan” that would cut the state’s GST revenue by $577 million. The rulings arise from the state’s unique provision against “inaccurate and misleading” election advertising, which places the Electoral Commissioner in the awkward position of having to adjudicate on matters of political controversy.

• Labor has cut a preference deal with Australian Conservatives in which the latter will direct preferences to Labor ahead of the Liberals in the crucial seat of Lee, and run split tickets in two other tight Labor marginals, Light and Newland. In return, Labor will recommend the party be given third preference after the Greens in the upper house, although the experience of the 2016 election suggests this will have very little impact. The Conservatives’ state leader, Dennis Hood, told the Advertiser the party was not directing preferences to the Liberals in Lee because the Liberals hadn’t asked.

• Betting markets have been leaning towards Labor as party to form government, but Ladbrokes has recently shortened the Liberals in a number of seats where they are under challenge from SA Best. Most notably, Vincent Tarzia is now a $1.72 favourite in Hartley, with Nick Xenophon out to $2. Liberal odds have also been shortened against Labor in Mawson, Elder and Black.

YouGov Galaxy SA seat polls: Hartley, Taylor, Mawson, Dunstan

Four seat polls bring bad news for all: Nick Xenophon struggling in Hartley, Liberal struggling in Mawson, Labor in danger in the heartland seat of Taylor. But Steven Marshall looks okay in Dunstan …

The Advertiser has another four seat polls by YouGov Galaxy for Saturday’s South Australian election, conducted on Saturday:

• Nick Xenophon trails Liberal incumbent Vincent Tarzia by 51-49 in his bid for Hartley, from primary votes of 38% for Tarzia, 30% for Xenophon, 22% for Labor and 5% for the Greens – although that preference flow seems a little favourable to the Liberals. Sample: 590.

• Better news for SA Best from the normally safe Labor seat of Taylor in Adelaide’s north, which is being vacated by Leesa Vlahos. SA Best is credited with a 51-49 lead (UPDATE: Other way round, sorry) from primary votes of Labor 39%, SA Best 29%, Liberal 23% and Greens 6%. Sample: 505.

• Bad news for the Liberals from the must-win seat of Mawson on Adelaide’s southern fringe, where Labor incumbent Leon Bignell is tied with Liberal candidate Andy Gilfillan, which, taking the redistribution into account, amounts to a 3% swing to Labor. The primary votes are Liberal 37%, Labor 30%, SA Best 20% and Greens 7%. Sample: 538.

• Steven Marshall is credited with a 53-47 lead in his seat of Dunstan, which he holds with a margin of 3.9%. The primary votes are Liberal 44%, Labor 30%, SA Best 15% and Greens 8%. Sample: 576.

South Australian election minus one week

Preferences, promises and pre-polling, as the South Australian election campaign enters the home strait.

Miscellaneous South Australian state election news:

• I had a piece in Crikey yesterday (paywalled) about the loss of momentum, actual and/or perceived, in Nick Xenophon’s campaign. Among the issues covered are the harsh treatment SA Best has received from preferences, including from the Greens, who have the Liberals ahead of them in 15 of the 36 seats in which they are running. This includes the seat of Waite, where the SA Best candidate is Graham Davies, a former vice-president of the South Australian Conservation Council and chair of the Sustainable Engineering Society. Labor has SA Best behind the Liberals in around half the seats where they are running, although these tend not to be the ones SA Best appears most likely to win. Thanks to South Australian electoral law, you can see all the preference orders that the parties have registered here, for purposes of “saving” votes from ballot papers where not all the boxes were numbered.

• The major point of policy differentiation between the major parties relates to Labor’s proposed tram extensions to North Adelaide and Norwood, for a combined cost of $538 million, and its longer term vision of a network of tram lines through the inner suburbs. The extensions are directly of interest to the seats of Adelaide, which Labor is hopeful of taking from the Liberals, and Dunstan, the marginal Liberal seat held by Steven Marshall. A North Adelaide extension is one of four proposals the Liberals say they will look into in government, the other three of which involve loops within the central business district. Marshall says residents in his electorate fear the loss of street trees and parking from a Norwood line, and the Liberals’ broader position is that trams are “not viable, workable or needed beyond the Adelaide Parklands and North Adelaide, except for the existing Glenelg line”.

• Pre-poll voting has been in swing since Monday, a fact Steven Marshall unusually chose to highlight by casting his own vote on Thursday. The Liberals clearly think they are on to something here, as they have launched a voteearly.com.au website to publicise pre-poll booth locations and the eligibility requirements (Marshall went with work commitments). By the reckoning of Tom Richardson of InDaily, the motivation is to ensure as many votes as possible are cast before the Oakden nursing home scandal fades from view.

• With the apparent decline in SA Best’s fortunes, betting agency Ladbrokes now has Labor very slight favourites to form government. Its seat polling has the Liberals as favourites in 22 seats, Labor in 20, SA Best only in Hartley and Heysen (just barely in the latter case), and independents in Florey, Frome and Mount Gambier. Aside from Labor’s Tom Kenyon being favourite to retain Newland, which has a 0.1% Liberal margin post-redistribution, no seat is favoured to change hands between Liberal and Labor, although little separates them in Lee and Torrens (Labor-held), Adelaide (Liberal-held) and Mawson (Labor-held, but Liberal post-redistribution). There remains a wide zone of uncertainty in relation to SA Best, who are at $3 or less in Chaffey, Davenport, Finniss, Kavel, Morialta and Colton – all Liberal seats, though Colton is only so on the post-redistribution margin.

• A model for projecting seat outcomes from statewide party vote totals based on Senate preference flows at the 2016 federal election has been developed by Jack Larkin. A similar effort was made before the Queensland election by Alex Jago, and while a thoroughly worthy experiment, it ended up badly overestimating Labor, who did not do nearly as well on One Nation preferences at the state election. The Jack Larkin model’s projections look pretty extraordinary in their expectations for SA Best, who end up with twice as many seats as the Liberals based on their supposedly disappointing numbers from the recent Newspoll.

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