The election for the Legislative Council election will be the first under new rules that abolish group voting tickets, which now persist only in Victoria and Western Australia. The new system resembles that of New South Wales in that voters are instructed to number as many or as few boxes above the line as they desire, or at least twelve boxes below the line. Votes remain formal if more than six boxes are numbered, compared with fifteen in New South Wales.
Two other aspects of South Australia's system that resemble New South Wales are staggered eight-year terms, with half the members' terms expiring at each election; and members being elected at large, rather than as representatives of smaller multi-member regions, as in Victoria and Western Australia. However, as the chamber is much smaller than the New South Wales Legislative Council, with twenty-two members rather than forty-two, the quota for election is 8.33% rather than 4.55%. This makes it less conducive for micro-parties, although there have been exceptions — most notably Nick Xenophon, who was first elected from 2.4% of the vote on a “No Pokies” ticket in 1997.
The modern age of the Legislative Council began in 1975, when a statewide system of proportional representation replaced one in which five regions returned two members at each election, an arrangement that was enormously unfavourable to Labor. The Australian Democrats gained the balance of power in 1985, and neither major party has held a majority since. The Liberals held half the seats after their landslide win in 1993, but this amounted only to a blocking majority, with Democrats support required to pass legislation.
Labor came to power in a weak position in the chamber in 2002, holding seven seats and requiring the support of three Democrats plus any two out of Nick Xenophon, Family First (which elected its first member at the 2002 election) and Terry Cameron, an ex-Labor independent. A strong Labor performance in 2006 only increased this to eight seats, a level they have maintained since. Meanwhile, the void created by the demise of the Australian Democrats has been more than filled by the Greens, Family First and Nick Xenophon.
The 2010 and 2014 elections, which set the membership of the chamber over the past term, each produced similar results. The only distinction was that Dignity for Disability, now the Dignity Party, won a seat in 2010, and the Nick Xenophon Team, as it was then branded, won in 2014. The elected candidate on the latter occasion was 76-year-old John Darley, who broke ranks with Nick Xenophon in August 2017 and has formed a new party, Advance SA.
The five candidates in winnable positions on the Labor ticket include only one incumbent, and none out of the four who were elected in 2010. Among the latter, Paul Holloway retired in 2011 and was succeeded by Gerry Kandelaars, who in turn retired in February 2017; Gail Gago is retiring after a career going back to 2002; Bernard Finnigan resigned in November 2015 after being convicted of accessing child pornography, and his replacement, Peter Malinauskas, will contest the lower house seat of Croydon; and John Gazzola is, like Gago, retiring after a career that began in 2002.
Labor's initial candidate for top position was Leesa Vlahos, but she withdrew on the eve of the official election campaign in mid-February. Vlahos had held the lower house seat of Taylor since 2010, and was moving to the upper house as part of preselection arrangements arising from the redistribution. However, her political future was clouded by a patient abuse scandal at the Oakden aged care facility, for which she bore responsibility as Disabilities Minister. Vlahos resigned from cabinet in September, ostensibly for health reasons. The scheduled publication of an Independent Commission Against Corruption report on management at Oakden for February 26 loomed as a major campaign headache for Labor, and Vlahos’s resignation announcement acknowledged that her candidacy “could become a distraction at this most important time”.
The vacancy was a factional preserve of the Right, which promptly anointed Emily Bourke (top left), a staffer in Jay Weatherill's office. Second position goes to Irene Pnevmatikos (top right), described by InDaily as “a personal injury lawyer with Manfield & Co who also has close ties to left-wing union United Voice”.
The one upper house incumbent is third-placed Justin Hanson (bottom left), a former Tea Tree Gully councillor and official with the Right faction Australian Workers Union. The selection of Hanson to replace Gerry Kandelaars in February 2017 arose from a deal between Left and Right that thwarted Jamie Newlyn, state secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia. Newlyn nominated against Hanson in protest, together with another Left identity, former Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union national president Trevor Smith. This occurred against a backdrop of conflict between the “Progressive Left Union and Sub-Branches” (PLUS), an element of the Left that had formed an alliance with the Right, and the mostly industrial Left unions that have since formed the rival “Active Left”.
Fourth position has gone to Clair Scriven (bottom left), former ministerial adviser and state manager of the Australian Forest Products Association.
In stark contrast to Labor, the top four positions on the Liberal ticket are unchanged from 2010. First is David Ridgway (top left), a factional conservative who came to parliament from number four in 2002. Ridgway was promoted to the front bench after the 2006 election, and became Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council in the shake-up that followed Martin Hamilton-Smith's rise to the leadership in April 2007, replacing Rob Lucas.
In second position is Stephen Wade (top right), a factional moderate who was unsuccessful from fifth place in 2006, then prevailed over fourth-placed Tim Keynes, a conservative, to fill the factional vacancy caused by Angus Redford's unsuccessful run for the lower house seat of Bright. Wade has been a constant of the shadow ministry since April 2007, serving since January 2017 as Shadow Minister for Health and Wellbeing.
Terry Stephens (bottom left) snuck in from fifth position in 2002, and now faces his second bid for re-election from the loftier perch of number three. A factional conservative, he had a spell in the shadow ministry from July 2009 until he was dropped in December 2011, and has held shadow parliamentary secretary status since after the 2014 election.
Jing Lee (bottom right) came to Australia from Malaysia as a child in 1979, and has been at parliamentary secretary level since December 2011. The party's failure to promote Lee to number three ahead of Stephens was criticised by Martin Hamilton-Smith, now in Jay Weatherill's cabinet, who attributed it to Ridgway shoring up his position.
The long-shot number five position goes to Bernadette Abraham, a Whyalla real estate agent. Adding to the down-ticket diversity are Clementina Maione at number six and Kuldip Chugha at number seven.
SA Best candidates
The great unknown quantity of the election is SA Best, which could very plausibly win three seats. Their ticket is headed by Connie Bonaros (left), chief-of-staff to Senator Stirling Griff and the party's secretary.
In second position is Frank Pangallo (right), a former journalist with Channel Seven's Today Tonight, and more recently a media adviser to Nick Xenophon and his Senate successor, Rex Patrick.
Number three is Sam Johnson, the mayor of Port Augusta; fourth is Andrea Madeley, who has campaigned for workplace safety since the death of her son in an industrial accident in 2004.
The Greens have scored a quota with not much left over at the three elections since 2006, electing Tammy Franks (top left) and Mark Parnell at alternating elections. Now is the turn of Franks, who has two terms of parliamentary experience to Parnell's three. Franks has a background with the Australian Democrats, having worked for Senator Natasha Stott Despoja and run as a low order Senate candidate in 2004. She was later a policy officer for the Mental Health Coalition.
Family First has won a seat at each election since its breakthrough win in 2002, and has now been rebranded as Australian Conservatives after its merger with Senator Cory Bernardi's fledgling concern. Andrew Evans was the party's inaugural member, and was joined in 2006 by Dennis Hood. Evans retired in July 2008 and was replaced by Robert Brokenshire (top right), who now faces his second re-election bid with the party. Brokenshire was the Liberal member for Mawson from 1993 to 2007, and served as Police and Emergency Services Minister in the Olsen and Kerin governments.
The surprise packet of the 2010 election, Kelly Vincent (bottom left) of the Dignity Party, faces re-election for the first time. Vincent, who has cerebral palsy, was elected at 21 from the second position on the party ticket after the lead candidate, Paul Collier, died eleven days before the election.
A month after he quit Nick Xenophon's party in August 2017, John Darley advanced the formation of the Advance SA party in tandem with the party's election candidate, Peter Humphries (bottom right), a retired lawyer also noted for his earlier association with Xenophon. Darley was facing expulsion from the party after voting with the government on upper house voting reform, in defiance of the party's position that voters should be required to number at least six boxes above the line. The party used the occasion of its November launch to unveil as its second candidate Jenny Low, who had a seven-year relationship with Xenophon, whom she accused of “manipulative and controlling behaviours”.