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Independents threaten 'safe' Liberal seats

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The dramatic swing against the Marshall Government has brought three blue-ribbon regional seats within striking distance for a group of largely unknown independents, while One Nation has scooped up a significant portion of votes to become favourites for an Upper House seat.

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Liberal frontbencher David Basham’s notionally safe Fleurieu seat of Finniss remains under siege today, with independent candidate Lou Nicholson leading 55.1 per cent to 44.9 per cent on two party preferred.

Although only 40 per cent of the electorate’s vote has been counted so far, the figures point to a boilover with a nearly 20 per cent swing against the Liberals who have held the seat since it was created in 1993.

“I guess I knew that anything was possible,” Nicholson said.

“Through campaigning for 12 months, I certainly knew that people were unhappy with the sitting member.

“I think people were really looking for a bit more recognition of the local issues and a representative that is really paying attention and listening.”

InDaily has previously reported that some Liberal branch members had privately confessed on the campaign trail that they would be voting for Nicholson, amid discontent about the state of health services around the Victor Harbor area.

The electorate, which covers the seaside towns Encounter Bay, Goolwa, Port Elliot and Hindmarsh Island, overlaps with the federal seat of Mayo held by Rebekha Sharkie.

Nicholson, an occupational therapist and mother of three, said she is “not counting my chickens before they’ve hatched” but was confident about her grassroots campaign’s pre-poll effort.

“We’ve got a huge amount of votes still to count,” she said.

“We had a strong presence on the pre-poll booth and the feel was positive … but we won’t know until the numbers come in.

“I’m happy to have had the privilege of running the campaign and to have had all of the support that I’ve had – I’m stoked to make the seat one that has had a strong challenger.”

The Liberals are facing similar difficulties in Adrian Pederick’s regional seat of Hammond and Peter Treloar’s former seat of Flinders.

The south east seat of Hammond, which takes in the city of Murray Bridge, Strathalbyn and Langhorne Creek, is facing a strong challenge from independent Airlie Keen who is at 49.9 per cent on two party preferred – a nearly 17 per cent swing against Pederick.

“To just put it in perspective, I ran my own campaign … I have a small and dedicated team, but I was my own campaign manager, I self-funded,” Keen said.

“So I’m really proud of my campaign and what I’ve achieved regardless of the outcome.”

Keen, a Murray Bridge councillor and long-time electorate officer in Kavel, said she was “humbled by the enormous support from across the political divide”.

She said her candidacy had pushed the Liberals towards making a $1.5 million commitment for a regional stadium in Murray Bridge and Labor towards a series of new housing commitments in Strathalbyn.

“Hammond has been an ultra-safe Liberal seat for a long time and we are overlooked because of that,” she said.

ABC chief election analyst Antony Green says Pederick will be safe in Hammond if Keen is unable able to beat out Labor candidate Belinda Owens to finish in the top two.

Owens currently has around 600 more first preference votes than Keen with half of the vote yet to be counted.

In Flinders, Liberal candidate and Tumby Bay Mayor Sam Telfer remains locked in a tight contest with independent Liz Habermann, who, according to the Electoral Commission, has 55.8 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.

While Telfer remains the favourite to succeed retiring member Peter Treloar, the Eyre Peninsula and Nullarbor Plains seat has sustained a nearly 20 per cent swing against the Liberals.

Meanwhile in the Upper House, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation is looking the favourite to win a place on the crossbench in their first South Australian election campaign since 2006.

The Queensland-based party has so far won roughly 4.2 per cent of the Upper House vote – beating out a glut of conservative minor parties including the Liberal Democrats (3.5 per cent), the revived Family First Party (3.2 per cent), the rebranded Australian Family Party (0.9 per cent) and the Nationals (0.7 per cent).

Antony Green said One Nation looks the most probable to win the Upper House’s 11th seat.

“At this stage, nine seats are certain: four Labor, four Liberal and one Green,” he told ABC News on Sunday.

“Two seats remain in doubt, I think on the current numbers it’s likely that Labor will win a fifth seat and it looks like the last seat could well go to One Nation who are the highest polling of the smaller parties.”

Sarah Game, the 39-year-old daughter of One Nation’s SA branch director Jennifer Game, is the party’s lead candidate for the seat.

Jennifer Game said the party’s result so far was “quite an achievement” but emphasised that a victory is far from settled yet.

“If [Sarah] shares the balance of power, then obviously our agenda that we laid out very clearly we would try to put it in place,” she said.

“Our view is we want small government, we want very strong families and very strong communities of faith because they are all that stands to protect the individual from the overreach of government – and we saw massive overreach of government through COVID.”

The Greens, meanwhile, are talking up their chances of winning a Lower House seat by 2026 after garnering more than 20 per cent of first preference votes in Heysen and Unley.

The left-wing party retained Upper House member Robert Simms for the next parliament and are polling at just under 10 per cent of the Legislative Council vote share – up nearly four per cent on 2018.

“I’m on track to be the first South Australian Green elected with a full quota without needing preferences, which is an amazing outcome for us,” Simms said, while conceding it would be “a little challenging” for the party to win a third Legislative Council seat at this election.

“There are also some seats where we’ve got some real opportunities in future elections to make future gains.

“If you look at Heysen where our candidate Lynton Vonow did incredibly well, we’ve got over 20 per cent of the vote there.

“We’re within striking distance of the Labor Party – that’s a seat I think we can win next time.”

The Greens are also polling at around 13 per cent in Adelaide and 17 per cent in West Torrens.

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