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SA election: Entering the great unknown


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South Australia’s political future is in the hands of the record 160,000 voters who made their decision before election day on Saturday.

The parties are both sweating on the pre-poll votes, which represent about 20 per cent of the electorate, but no-one is sure exactly how the numbers will play out.

The Electoral Commission will start dealing with these votes today, but numbers aren’t expected to be available until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest.

The final result of Saturday’s election is balanced on a knife’s edge, with Labor leading in 23 seats and the Liberals in 22. Independents Bob Such and Geoff Brock hold the remaining two seats and the balance of power. A party needs 24 seats to govern in their own right.

The Liberals look certain to pick up the seats of Mt Gambier (held by independent Don Pegler), Bright (held by Labor minister Chloe Fox), and Hartley (held by Labor minister Grace Portolesi).

Liberal candidate Corey Wingard has a narrow lead in the marginal Labor seat of Mitchell, and both parties expect the Liberals to win.

Of the other marginals, Labor is confident of holding Colton and Newland, and it’s also leading in Ashford and Elder.

Labor sources say that the Liberals would need to pick up 54-55 per cent of the pre-poll votes to peg back Labor’s leads in these seats.

In the previous state election, Labor won the pre-poll votes in both Elder and Newland.

However, it’s widely accepted that South Australia is in unknown territory with the pre-poll votes this time around. While it’s generally believed that this bag of votes will favour the Liberals, no-one really knows by how much.

If nothing unexpected happens, Labor will in 23 seats but will need the support of at least one independent in order to form government. In this scenario, the Liberals would need both to back them – which seems unlikely (see Campaign Diary for more, as well as this revealing InDaily interview from January).

RELIVE THE DRAMA: Read our live-blog from Liberal and Labor HQs on Saturday night.

Liberal leader Steven Marshall has been meeting with independents Geoff Brock and Bob Such this morning at his Parliament House office.

Weatherill met with Brock and Such yesterday.

The Liberals are still wondering why they are in this position, given they look likely to win the popular vote. It could be that for the second election in a row, they will win the two-party preferred vote but fall short of winning a majority of seats.

Labor’s surprisingly strong showing has been put down to a number of factors, including Labor’s skilled marginal seat campaigning.

Yesterday, Weatherill said Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s entrance into the local campaign had helped Labor.

Again this morning, Weatherill said fear about the Federal Government’s industrial policies had been a factor.

However, senior federal Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne said today that Labor was deluding itself if it believed the shock South Australian election result was a statement about the federal government’s industry policy.

Its federal counterparts have seized on the result as an indictment of the Abbott government’s failure to support manufacturing jobs, particularly in the auto industry.

But Pyne says Labor’s deluding themselves, telling ABC Radio that despite their failure to win a majority of seats, the state Liberals won almost 53 per cent of the two party preferred vote.

“The truth is that Labor again got less than 50 per cent of the vote on a two party preferred basis,” Pyne told ABC Radio.

“I think it is a sad indictment on the Labor Party that when they’ve had a swing against them, and they somehow claim that as vindication for very poor policy.”

Federal Labor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said many people had written the party off in South Australia.

“(Prime Minister) Tony Abbott was there frequently last week and made a big deal of his presence there,” she told ABC radio.

“I think it’s a very strong result in South Australia for Labor.”

For the most recent numbers, go to the Electoral Commission website.

– with AAP

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