South Australia's Legislative Council consists of 22 members who serve staggered eight-year terms with half elected at alternating elections. Members are elected at large as in New South Wales, rather than for multi-member regions as in Victoria and, until new reforms take effect at the next election, Western Australia. The quota for election is 8.33%, making it less conducive for minor parties than the New South Wales Legislative Council, for which 21 members are elected at each election from a quota of 4.55%, but more so than the Senate, with its 14.29% quota per state at an ordinary half-Senate election.
The Liberals held nine seats after coming to power in 2018, having won four at each of the 2014 and 2018 elections and gaining a further seat when Dennis Hood, who had held a seat for Family First and its successor Australian Conservatives since 2006, joined the party after the Australian Conservatives' failure at the 2018 election. One of these was lost in September 2020 when John Dawkins, a member since 1997 who was most recently re-elected in 2014, was expelled from the party after successfully standing against its nominee for the position of Legislative Council President. With Dawkins retiring at the coming election, a status quo result will see the Liberals maintaining their present representation of eight seats.
Labor also holds eight seats, having won four seats in both 2014 and 2018 and suffered no defections in the past two terms. In addition to Dawkins as an independent in the President's chair, this has left a cross bench of two Greens, who won a seat each in 2014 and 2018; two for SA-Best, who had least had that many seats to show for themselves in the Legislative Council despite ending up empty-handed in the House of Assembly; and John Darley, who was once aligned with Nick Xenophon and now represents his own Advance SA party.
The election will be the second held since the abolition of group voting tickets, which now persist only in Victoria after the passage of reforms last year in Western Australia. The 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.
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 the support of the Democrats needed to pass legislation. Labor held seven seats in its first term from 2002 to 2006 and eight thereafter, with the Greens, Family First and Nick Xenophon and his allies holding the balance of power.
The last three elections have produced similar results, with Liberal and Labor winning three apiece and the Greens winning one. Family First won a seat in 2010 and 2014, as they had previously in 2002 and 2004, with the other seat going to Dignity for Disability in 2010 and John Darley as the Nick Xenophon Team candidate in 2014. Both the outstanding seats went to SA-Best in 2018, with Kelly Vincent of Dignity (as Dignity for Disability had been renamed) and Robert Brokenshire of Australian Conservatives (and earlier of Family First, and before that a Liberal Party MP from 1993 to 2006 and minister in the Olsen government) failing to win re-election.
The Liberals won four seats at the 2014 election and ended the term with the same number, but the picture was complicated by the fact that the party gained Dennis Hood from Australian Conservatives in 2018 and lost John Darley in 2020. Of the four elected as Liberals in 2014, only Michelle Lensink is seeking re-election, but the ticket features two further incumbents in Dennis Hood and Nicole Centafanti, who in April 2020 filled the vacancy caused by Andrew McLachlan's move to the Senate. The other Liberal elected in 2014, Rob Lucas, is retiring at the election after an epic parliamentary career extending back to 1982, having served through the period of the Marshall government as Treasurer.
At the head of the ticket is Michelle Lensink, a factional moderate who has served as Human Services Minister since the Marshall government came to power in 2018. Lensink has served in the Council since 2003, having previously been a staffer to Christopher Pyne and state government minister Robert Lawson. Initially appointed to a casual vacancy, she was elected from third position on the ticket in both 2006 and 2014.
Second on the ticket is Dennis Hood, who became the second Family First member of the Legislative Council when he won a seat at the 2006 election, having previously been a pharmaceuticals executive for Johnson & Johnson. Hood was re-elected in 2014, and became part of the Cory Bernardi-led Australian Conservatives when the parties merged in 2017. Nine days after the party's failure at the 2018 election, at which Evans' successor Robert Brokenshire failed to win re-election, Hood defected to the Liberal Party, and Australian Conservatives folded a year later ahead of Bernardi's retirement from politics.
In third place is Nicola Centofanti, a former Riverland veterinarian who has served in the Council since April 2020. Centofani filled the vacancy created when Andrew McLachlan, who came to parliament after the 2014 election, in turn filled the Senate vacancy created by the retirement of Cory Bernardi, an outcome that returned that seat to the Liberal Party following Bernardi's defection in 2016.
The highest placed non-incument at number four is Laura Curran, a staffer to factional conservative Senator Alex Antic. InDaily reported the conservatives' claim to the position was threatened when the breakaway centre right faction threatened to back a moderate, one contender being Kathleen Bourne, a staffer to Health Minister Stephen Wade who ultimately had to settle for fifth place.
The four Liberals serving ongoing terms include Stephen Wade, the Health Minister; Terry Stephens, who served as the chamber's President from 2018 until July 2020, when he fell victim to the country members' accommodation allowance affair; and Jing Lee, who holds one of the government's two assistant minister positions and was the party's favoured candidate to succeed Stephens to be President, only to be thwarted by John Dawkins. Wade, Stephens and Lee were respectively elected from second, third and fourth on the ticket in 2018. The lead candidate, David Ridgway, was appointed agent-general to London in June 2021 and succeeded by Heidi Girolamo, a factional conservative.
The four Labor members elected in 2014 have all served full terms, and all are seeking re-election. Leading the ticket is Kyam Maher, a Left-aligned former state secretary and the party's leader in the house. Maher came to paraliament after filling a casual vacancy in October 2012 and was elected from fourth position on the ticket in 2014. He served in cabinet from February 2015 until the defeat of the Weatherill government in March 2018, and has since held the portfolios of Attorney-General, industrial relations and Aboriginal affairs in the shadow ministry. Maher is descended from Tasmanian Aborigines on his mother's side.
In second position is Tung Ngo, who was first elected from third on the ticket in 2014. Ngo was born in Vietnam and came to Australia in 1982 at the age of ten, having previously been in a refugee camp in the Philippines. He was a Port Adelaide Enfield councillor and adviser to Health Minister Jack Snelling when preselected at the 2014 election with support from the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association.
The highest placed non-incumbent on the ticket is Reggie Martin, the party's long-serving state secretary and a figure of influence in the Right. Martin has been placed higher on the ticket than two incumbents, with fourth position going to Ian Hunter, who became the only openly gay member of parliament when first elected in 2006. He held the fourth position on the ticket on that occasion, and was promoted to second when re-elected in 2014. Hunter served in cabinet throughout Jay Weatherill's tenure as Premier from 2011 to 2018, but moved to the back bench after the 2018 election.
Next along is Russell Wortley, who has served in the chamber since his election from third position on the ticket in 2006, and was re-elected from top spot in 2014. Wortley did not contest the preselection for the top four positions that was held in 2020, but seemingly thought better of his decision to retire and was accommodated in fifth place when the full ticket was announced in February. Wortley is a former Transport Workers Union official who began political life in the Left, but later defected to the Right. He served in cabinet from 2011 and 2013 and as President of the Legislative Council from 2014 to 2018, but has been on the back bench over the past term. He is the husband of Dana Wortley, member for the lower house seat of Torrens.
The four Labor members serving ongoing terms are, in order of their position on the ticket in 2018, Emily Bourke, Right-aligned former staffer to Jay Weatherill who debuted at the top of the ticket in 2018; Justin Hanson, a former Australian Workers Union official who has been a member of the Right since the union aligned with it in 2020; Irene Pnevmatikos, a former lawyer aligned with the Left; and Clare Scriven, who holds the shadow ministry positions of industry and skills and forestry.
The Greens candidate is Robert Simms, who came to the Council in March 2021 in succession to Mark Parnell, the candidate elected in 2014. Simms served in the Senate from 2015 to 2016, succeeding Penny Wright on her resignation but failing to win re-election at the 2016 election from second on the party's ticket, behind Sarah Hanson-Young. Simms has also been a barrister and solicitor and was elected to Adelaide City Council in 2014, and returned to it in 2018. The ongoing Greens member is Tammy Franks, who was first elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2018.
The lead candidate of the SA-Best party is Ian Markos, former chief executive of the Master Builders Association. Markos hopes to add to the party's existing complement of two members from 2018: Connie Bonaros, former chief-of-staff to Senator Stirling Griff, and Frank Pangallo, a former journalist with Channel Seven's Today Tonight, and more recently a media adviser to Nick Xenophon and his Senate successor, Rex Patrick.
Seeking re-election at the age of 84 is John Darley, the sole representative of the Advance SA party. A former Valuer-General who narrowly failed to win a third seat for Nick Xenophon's ticket in 2006, he went on to fill Xenophon's vacancy after his election to the Senate in 2007. After winning re-election in 2014 and resigned from what was then the Nick Xenophon Team in September 2017 to found the Advance SA party.
Other notable minor party contenders include Bob Day, a former housing industry entrepreneur who won a seat in the Senate for Family First in 2013 and was re-elected at the 2016 double dissolution, having previously run unsuccessfully for the Liberals in the federal seat of Makin in 2007. Day's Senate career came to end when he filed for bankruptcy in April 2017, from which he was discharged in July 2020. He will now run under the banner of the Australian Family Party, which he launched in October 2020.
Day's new party complicates matters for the revived Family First party, an initiative that was spearheaded by two former Labor members in Tom Kenyon and Jack Snelling, the former of whom will lead the party's ticket. Kenyon is a former organiser for the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association who held the seat of Newland from 2006 until his defeat in 2018, and served in cabinet from 2011 to 2014.
The Nationals are taking the field at this election after sitting it out in 2018, and have landed a notable candidate in Gary Johanson, a former Port Adelaide-Enfield mayor who has made multiple runs for state seats in that area as an independent, coming within 2.9% of winning Port Adelaide at a by-election in February 2012.
Other candidates include Stephen Pallaras a criminal lawyer and Queen's Counsel running under the banner of Real Change SA; and Annabel Digance, who held the lower house seat of Elder for Labor from 2010 to 2018 and is now making a perhaps quixotic independent bid together with her running mate and husband, Greg Digance, at a time when both are facing court on charges of attempting to blackmail Peter Malinauskas.