South Australian state election, 2018

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South Australian state election, 2018
South Australia
← 2014 17 March 2018 2022 →

All 47 seats in the South Australian House of Assembly
24 seats are needed for a majority
11 (of the 22) seats in the South Australian Legislative Council
Opinion polls
  Jay Weatherill crop.jpg Steven Marshall crop.jpg 2009 07 24 Nick Xenophon speaking cropped.jpg
Leader Jay Weatherill Steven Marshall Nick Xenophon
Party Labor Liberal SA Best
Leader since 21 October 2011 4 February 2013 4 July 2017
Leader's seat Cheltenham Dunstan None
(Contesting Hartley)
Last election 23 seats 22 seats New party
Current seats 23 seats 19 seats 0 seats
Seats needed Increase1 Increase5 Increase24

Incumbent Premier

Jay Weatherill
Australian Labor Party

The 2018 South Australian state election will elect members to the 54th Parliament of South Australia on 17 March 2018. All 47 seats in the House of Assembly or lower house, whose current members were elected at the 2014 election, and 11 of 22 seats in the Legislative Council or upper house, last filled at the 2010 election, will become vacant. The record-16-year-incumbent Australian Labor Party (SA) government, currently led by Premier Jay Weatherill, will seek a fifth four-year term against the opposition Liberal Party of Australia (SA), currently led by Opposition Leader Steven Marshall. Nick Xenophon's new SA Best party is seeking to obtain the balance of power.

The election will be conducted by the Electoral Commission of South Australia (ECSA), an independent body answerable to Parliament. Like federal elections, South Australia has compulsory voting and uses full-preference instant-runoff voting for single-member electorates in the lower house. Additionally, following similar Senate changes which took effect from the 2016 federal election, South Australia's single transferable vote in the proportionally represented upper house is changing from group voting tickets to optional preferential voting − instructions for above the line votes will be to mark '1' and then further preferences optional as opposed to preference flows from simply '1' above the line being determined by group voting tickets, while instructions for voters who instead opt to vote below the line will be to provide at least 12 preferences as opposed to having to number all candidates, and with a savings provision to admit ballot papers which indicate at least 6 below the line preferences.[1]


The last state election was held on 15 March 2014 to elect members for the House of Assembly and half of the members in the Legislative Council. In South Australia, section 28 of the Constitution Act 1934, as amended in 2001, directs that parliaments have fixed four-year terms, and elections must be held on the third Saturday in March every four years unless this date falls the day after Good Friday, occurs within the same month as a Commonwealth election, or the conduct of the election could be adversely affected by a state disaster. Section 28 also states that the Governor may also dissolve the Assembly and call an election for an earlier date if the Government has lost the confidence of the Assembly or a bill of special importance has been rejected by the Legislative Council. Section 41 states that both the Council and the Assembly may also be dissolved simultaneously if a deadlock occurs between them.[2][3]

The Electoral (Miscellaneous) Amendment Act 2013 introduced set dates for writs for general elections in South Australia. The writ sets the dates for the close of the electoral roll and the close of nominations for an election. The Electoral Act 1985 requires that, for a general election, the writ be issued 28 days before the date fixed for polling (S47(2a)) and the electoral roll be closed at 12 noon, 6 days after the issue of the writ (S48(3(a)(i)). The close of nominations will be at 12 noon 3 days after the close of rolls (Electoral Act 1985 S48(4)(a) and S4(1)).

Since the previous election, six new parties have registered: Danig Party of Australia, Animal Justice Party, Nick Xenophon's SA-BEST, Australian Conservatives, Advance SA and the Child Protection Party. Four are no longer registered: FREE Australia Party, Fishing and Lifestyle Party, Multicultural Progress Party and the Family First Party.[4][5]



As of 1 February 2018, there are fourteen political parties registered with the Electoral Commission of South Australia who are consequently eligible to field candidates in this election.[6] Aside from the major parties (Labor Party and Liberal Party), the SA-BEST party, which has polled higher figures than the major parties on occasion, is running in at least 30 seats, more than the 24 theoretically required to form government.[7] The fourteen parties registered with the commission are; Labor, Liberal, SA-BEST, the Greens, National Party, Australian Conservatives, Dignity Party, Liberal Democratic Party, Stop Population Growth Now, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, Danig Party of Australia, Animal Justice Party, Advance SA and Child Protection Party.[6]

Previous election[edit]

The 2014 election resulted in a hung parliament with 23 seats for Labor and 22 for the Liberals. The balance of power rested with the two crossbench independents, Bob Such and Geoff Brock. Such did not indicate who he would support in a minority government before he went on medical leave for a brain tumour, diagnosed one week after the election. University of Adelaide Professor and Political Commentator Clem Macintyre said the absence of Such virtually guaranteed that Brock would back Labor – with 24 seats required to govern, Brock duly provided support to the incumbent Labor government, allowing Premier Jay Weatherill to continue in office as head of a minority government. Macintyre said:[8]

If Geoff Brock had gone with the Liberals, then the Parliament would have effectively been tied 23 to 23, so once Bob Such became ill and stepped away then Geoff Brock, I think had no choice but to side with Labor.

The Liberals were reduced to 21 seats in May 2014 when Martin Hamilton-Smith became an independent and entered cabinet with Brock. Both Hamilton-Smith and Brock agreed to support the government on confidence and supply while retaining the right to otherwise vote on conscience. It is Labor's longest-serving South Australian government and the second longest-serving South Australian government behind the Playmander-assisted Thomas Playford IV. Aside from Playford, it is the second time that any party has won four consecutive state elections in South Australia, the first occurred when Don Dunstan led Labor to four consecutive victories between 1970 and 1977. Recent hung parliaments occurred when Labor came to government at the 2002 election and prior to that at the 1997 election which saw the South Australian Division of the Liberal Party of Australia, created in 1974, win re-election for the first time. Following the 2014 election, Labor went from minority to majority government when Nat Cook won the 2014 Fisher by-election by five votes from a 7.3 percent two-party swing which was triggered by the death of Such. Despite this, the Jay Weatherill Labor government kept Brock and Hamilton-Smith in cabinet, giving the government a 26 to 21 parliamentary majority.[9] Frances Bedford resigned from Labor and became an independent in March 2017 after minister Jack Snelling was endorsed for Florey pre-selection as a result of the major electoral redistribution ahead of the 2018 election. As with the rest of the crossbench, Bedford will continue to provide confidence and supply support to the incumbent Labor government.[10] Duncan McFetridge resigned from the Liberals and moved to the crossbench as an independent in May 2017 after Stephen Patterson was endorsed for Morphett pre-selection.[11] Troy Bell resigned from the Liberals and moved to the crossbench as an independent in August 2017 due to criminal financial allegations.[12]


Labor candidate Nat Cook won the traditionally Liberal seat of Fisher at the December 2014 by-election by just five votes after preferences from a 7.3 percent Liberal to Labor two-party swing, taking Labor from minority to majority government.

Independent Bob Such died from a brain tumour on 11 October 2014 which triggered a by-election in Fisher for 6 December.[13] Labor's Nat Cook won the by-election by five votes with a 7.3 percent two-party swing against the Liberals, resulting in a change from minority to majority government. On a 0.02 percent margin it is the most marginal seat in parliament.[9] Despite this, the Jay Weatherill Labor government kept crossbench MPs Geoff Brock and Martin Hamilton-Smith in cabinet, giving the government a 26 to 21 parliamentary majority.[9] ABC psephologist Antony Green described the by-election as a "very bad result for the Liberal Party in South Australia" both state and federally, and that a fourth term government gaining a seat at a by-election is unprecedented in Australian history.[14]

Liberal Iain Evans in Davenport resigned from parliament on 30 October 2014 which triggered a 2015 Davenport by-election for 31 January.[15][16][17][18] Liberal Sam Duluk won the seat despite a five percent two-party swing, turning the historically safe seat of Davenport in to a two-party marginal seat for the first time.[19] ABC psephologist Antony Green described it as "another poor result for the South Australian Liberal Party",[20] following the 2014 Fisher by-election which saw Labor go from minority to majority government.[9]

Upper house casual vacancies[edit]

Following the parliamentary resignation of former Labor Minister Bernard Finnigan on 12 November 2015 following his conviction for accessing child pornography.[21] SDA secretary Peter Malinauskas filled the Legislative Council casual vacancy in a joint sitting of the Parliament of South Australia on 1 December.[22]

Following the parliamentary resignation of Labor MLC Gerry Kandelaars on 17 February 2017, Justin Hanson filled the Legislative Council casual vacancy in a joint sitting of the Parliament of South Australia on 28 February.[23][24]

Redistributions and the two-party vote[edit]

To produce "fair" electoral boundaries, the Electoral Commission of South Australia (ECSA) has been required following the 1989 election to redraw boundaries after each election through a "fairness clause" in the state constitution, with the objective that the party which receives over 50 percent of the statewide two-party vote at the forthcoming election should win the two-party vote in a majority of seats in terms of the two-party-preferred vote calculated in all seats regardless of any differing two-candidate-preferred vote.[25]

Labor has been in government for all but three terms since the abolition of the Playmander in 1970 due primarily to its success in Adelaide. South Australia is the most centralised state in Australia. While the state has 1.7 million people, 1.3 million of them live in Adelaide—over 75 percent of the state population. Due in part to a lack of comparatively-sized regional population centres, Adelaide is split between 34 of the 47 seats in the House of Assembly—almost three-fourths of the legislature. Therefore, to a far greater extent than other states, the metropolitan area tends to decide election outcomes. Elections since 1970 have been characterised by an extreme urban-rural split. Under normal conditions, Labor wins the most seats in Adelaide, while most Liberal support is packed into comfortably safe rural seats.

At the 2014 election for example, the statewide two-party vote (2PP) was 47.0% Labor v 53.0% Liberal. However, much of the Liberal majority was located in its rural heartland. The metropolitan area recorded a 2PP of 51.5% Labor v 48.5% Liberal.[26]

The Liberals only won 12 of the 34 metropolitan seats; while only 4 of their 14 safe two-party seats (more than 10 percent 2PP) were urban, all of their "fairly safe" seats (6-10 percent 2PP) and marginal (less than six percent 2PP) were in Adelaide. The two crossbenchers' seats, Such's seat of Fisher and Brock's seat of Frome, would have returned clear Liberal majorities in traditional two-party matchups. Since 24 seats would have returned Liberal majorities in traditional two-party matchups, the fairness clause was met.

One element of the Playmander remains to this day − the House of Assembly is still elected using single-member seats. Prior to the Playmander, the House of Assembly had always been elected using multi-member seats since the inaugural 1857 election.

Each Labor period of government since the end of the Playmander had at least one comprehensive win, allowing often-Liberal seats to be won by Labor candidates who then built up incumbency and personal popularity. Examples in 2014 were Mawson, Newland and Light, and additionally in 2010, Bright and Hartley – all gained at the 2006 election landslide. Mawson in fact swung toward Labor in 2010 and 2014 despite the statewide trend. The bellwether seat of Colton was retained by Labor. Furthermore, all but two of the nine Liberal-held metropolitan seats saw swings against the Liberals.

In contrast, the Liberals have had only one comprehensive victory in terms of both two-party vote and seat count—in 1993, when they won a record 61 percent of the two-party vote and all but nine seats in Adelaide. Their second-biggest two-party vote of this period, in 1979, saw them win 55 percent of the two-party vote, which is normally enough for a decisive majority in the rest of Australia. However, they only won a bare two-seat majority due to winning only 13 seats in Adelaide

In 2014, referring to the 1989 fairness legislation, Premier Jay Weatherill said, "Complaining about the rules when you designed the rules I think sits ill on the mouth of the Liberal Party." Electoral Commissioner Kay Mousley said it was an "impossible" task for the Boundaries Commission to achieve the legislated requirement, stating "It is a constitutional requirement, and until the constitution gets changed, I must say I find it a very inexact science".[27] Additionally, she had previously stated in 2010 "Had the Liberal Party achieved a uniform swing it would have formed Government. The Commission has no control over, and can accept no responsibility for, the quality of the candidates, policies and campaigns."[28] University of Adelaide Professor of Politics Clem Macintyre stated after the 2014 election that fair electoral boundaries are an "impossible challenge".[29]

The Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission released the draft redistribution in August 2016, as calculated from the 24 Liberal−23 Labor seat count by two-party vote as recorded in all 47 seats at the 2014 state election (subsequent by-election results including the significant 2014 Fisher by-election are not counted). The net change proposed would have seen a 25 Liberal−22 Labor notional seat count.[30]

The proposed changes in the draft redistribution contained significant boundary redrawing with hundreds of thousands of voters affected. Seven seats would be renamed − Ashford would become Badcoe, Mitchell would become Black, Bright would become Gibson, Fisher would become Hurtle Vale, Napier would become King, Goyder would become Narungga, while Little Para would once again become Elizabeth. In two-party terms since the previous election, the seats of Mawson and Elder would become notionally Liberal seats, while Hurtle Vale would become a notionally Labor seat. Mawson in the outer southern suburbs would geographically change the most, stretching along the coast right through to as far as and including Kangaroo Island. Hurtle Vale's margin change of 9 percent would be the largest in the state, with Mawson to change 8.3 percent and King to change 8 percent. Even with the history of the Playmander, it was also proposed that rural seats contain slightly less voters than metropolitan seats.[30][31][32][33]

Upon the release of the draft redistribution, Liberal MP Rachel Sanderson organised the mass distribution of a pro forma document in the two inner metropolitan suburbs of Walkerville and Gilberton, which aimed for residents to use the pro forma document to submit their objection to the commission in support of Sanderson's campaign to keep the two suburbs in her seat of Adelaide, which in the draft would have been transferred to neighbouring Torrens. Sanderson's position however was at odds with her own party's submission which in fact agreed with the commission that Walkerville should be transferred to Torrens. Under the commission's draft proposal, the Liberal margin in Adelaide would have been reduced from 2.4 percent to 0.6 percent, but would have also resulted in the Labor margin in Torrens reduced from 3.5 percent to 1.1 percent. Of a record 130 total submissions received in response to the draft redistribution, about 100 (over three quarters of all submissions) were from Walkerville and Gilberton.[34][35][36][37][38][39] As a result, the commission reversed the draft decision in the final publication.[40]

Along with other various alterations in the final publication released in December 2016, in addition to Hurtle Vale becoming a notionally Labor seat and Mawson and Elder becoming notionally Liberal seats in the draft redistribution, the final redistribution additionally turned Newland and the bellwether of Colton in to notionally Liberal seats. These further changes provide a 27 Liberal−20 Labor notional seat count in two-party terms, a net change of three seats from Labor to Liberal since the previous election.[40][41][42][43]

Labor objected to the commission's interpretation of the fairness requirements and appealed against it to the Supreme Court of South Australia in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution Act 1934 (SA). Labor sought to have the redistribution order quashed and have the Boundaries Commission make a fresh redistribution. The Grounds of Appeal were stated to relate to the Commission's interpretation of section 77 relating to the number of electors in each electoral district,[44][45] with the redistribution reducing the number of voters in rural seats and increasing the number of voters in metropolitan seats, though still within the one vote one value 10 percent tolerance. The Supreme Court appeal was rejected on 10 March 2017. Labor considered but decided against an appeal to the High Court.[46][47]

Post-redistribution pendulum[edit]

Redistributed metropolitan seats
Redistributed inner-rural seats
Redistributed outer-rural seats

Retiring members are shown in italic text.

King Jon Gee ALP 1.4%
Hurtle Vale Nat Cook ALP 1.7%
Lee Stephen Mullighan ALP 2.6%
Torrens Dana Wortley ALP 2.6%
Light Tony Piccolo ALP 3.9%
Badcoe Steph Key ALP 4.2%
Wright Jennifer Rankine ALP 4.5%
Giles Eddie Hughes ALP 5.7%
Fairly safe
Enfield John Rau ALP 6.2%
Kaurna Chris Picton ALP 8.4%
Taylor Leesa Vlahos ALP 8.8%
Florey Frances Bedford (IND) ALP 9.2%
Reynell Katrine Hildyard ALP 9.8%
Elizabeth Lee Odenwalder ALP 9.9%
Playford Jack Snelling ALP 11.5%
West Torrens Tom Koutsantonis ALP 12.2%
Port Adelaide Susan Close ALP 12.5%
Cheltenham Jay Weatherill ALP 14.4%
Ramsay Zoe Bettison ALP 17.4%
Croydon Michael Atkinson ALP 19.6%
Newland Tom Kenyon (ALP) LIB 0.1%
Adelaide Rachel Sanderson LIB 2.0%
Black David Speirs LIB 2.6%
Mawson Leon Bignell (ALP) LIB 3.2%
Gibson Corey Wingard LIB 3.2%
Hartley Vincent Tarzia LIB 3.3%
Colton Paul Caica (ALP) LIB 3.7%
Dunstan Steven Marshall LIB 3.9%
Elder Annabel Digance (ALP) LIB 4.3%
Fairly safe
Morphett Duncan McFetridge (IND) LIB 7.7%
Davenport Sam Duluk LIB 8.9%
Unley David Pisoni LIB 9.2%
Waite Martin Hamilton-Smith (IND) LIB 10.4%
Frome Geoff Brock (IND) LIB 10.5%
Morialta John Gardner LIB 11.6%
Schubert Stephan Knoll LIB 12.4%
Heysen Isobel Redmond LIB 13.2%
Finniss Michael Pengilly LIB 13.7%
Narungga Steven Griffiths LIB 13.8%
Kavel Mark Goldsworthy LIB 14.1%
Hammond Adrian Pederick LIB 16.3%
Bragg Vickie Chapman LIB 16.6%
Stuart Dan van Holst Pellekaan LIB 20.1%
Mt Gambier Troy Bell (IND) LIB 21.6%
Chaffey Tim Whetstone LIB 24.4%
MacKillop Mitch Williams LIB 26.7%
Flinders Peter Treloar LIB 28.7%

Strongest Xenophon/SA-BEST seats[edit]

Seat Party NXT vote
Heysen LIB 31.2%
Chaffey LIB 30.5%
Finniss LIB 30.4%
Kavel LIB 29.8%
Morialta LIB 26.9%
Giles ALP 26.5%
Mawson LIB (notional) 25.8%
Stuart LIB 25.8%
Mt Gambier LIB 25.4%
Narungga LIB 25.0%
Hammond LIB 24.3%
Davenport LIB 24.2%
Newland LIB (notional) 23.7%
Hartley LIB 23.7%
Waite LIB 23.5%

The table lists, according to The Poll Bludger website and based on the Nick Xenophon Team's Senate vote performance at the 2016 federal election, the strongest SA-BEST seats.[48]

Though most of the listed seats are safe Liberal seats, a third party or candidate with a substantial vote was believed to be more likely to be successful in a traditionally safe seat than a marginal seat due to it being easier to out-poll the comparatively low primary vote of the seat's traditionally uncompetitive major party, usually before but occasionally after the distribution of preferences (see Frome state by-election, 2009). If the third party attracts enough first preference votes away from the dominant party, then it is possible that the preferences of voters for the second traditional party will assist the new party's candidate to overtake and therefore defeat the incumbent on the two-candidate-preferred vote (rather than the normally pivotal two-party-preferred vote). According to The Poll Bludger, Nick Xenophon's SA-BEST candidates "will stand an excellent chance in any seat where they are able to outpoll one or other major party, whose voters will overwhelmingly place them higher than the candidate of the rival major party. In that circumstance, the more strongly performing major party candidate will be in serious trouble unless their own primary vote approaches 50%, which will be difficult to achieve in circumstances where approaching a quarter of the vote has gone to SA Best."[48]

Recent analysis from polling company Essential Research has found SA Best preference flows of 60/40 to Liberal/Labor, indicating that the substantial third party presence of SA Best is eating in to the Liberal vote somewhat greater than the Labor vote.[49]

Retiring MPs[edit]





The July to September 2014 Newspoll saw Labor leading the Liberals on the two-party preferred (2PP) vote for the first time since 2009.[59][60] The October to December 2015 Newspoll saw Marshall's leadership approval rating plummet 11 points to 30 percent, the equal lowest Newspoll approval rating in history for a South Australian Opposition Leader since Dale Baker in 1990.[61][62][60]

The first state-level Newspoll to be conducted in two years, in late 2017, did not publish a 2PP figure, claiming that calculating it had become difficult due to the large third-party primary vote of SA Best.[63] Roy Morgan ceased publishing a 2PP figure from January 2018.[64]

Essential polling's 2PP figures are calculated with SA Best preference flows of 60/40 to Liberal/Labor, approximated from current polling.[49]

House of Assembly (lower house) polling
Date Firm Primary vote 2PP vote
29 Jan 2018 ReachTEL [65] 28.5% 36.4% 19.2% 6.0% 9.9%
11–12 Jan 2018 Morgan [64] 23.5% 32% 28.5% 9% 7%
Oct–Dec 2017 Essential [49] 34% 31% 22% 8% 6% 51% 49%
Oct–Dec 2017 Newspoll [66] 27% 29% 32% 6% 6%
Jul–Sep 2017 Essential [67] 37% 30% 18% 6% 10% 52% 48%
28–29 Jun 2017 Galaxy [68] 28% 34% 21% 6% 11% 50% 50%
Apr–Jun 2017 Essential [69] 36% 31% 19% 7% 8% 52% 48%
Jan–Mar 2017 Essential [70] 35% 28% 18% 6% 12% 52% 48%
Oct–Dec 2016 Essential [71] 35% 32% 17% 7% 8% 51% 49%
1–2 Oct 2016 Morgan [72] 24.5% 36.5% 19.5% 11% 8.5% 46% 54%
12–14 Sep 2016 Galaxy [68] 27% 35% 22% 7% 9% 50% 50%
Jul–Sep 2016 Essential [73] 38% 30% 16% 7% 9% 54% 46%
Apr–Jun 2016 Essential [73] 34% 30% 20% 7% 9% 51% 49%
Jan–Mar 2016 Essential [73] 37% 29% 15% 9% 10% 54% 46%
3–5 Feb 2016 Galaxy [68] 28% 33% 24% 7% 8% 49% 51%
Oct–Dec 2015 Essential [73] 39% 32% 10% 19% 54% 46%
Oct–Dec 2015 Newspoll [74] 36% 38% 9% 17% 51% 49%
Apr–Jun 2015 Newspoll [74] 36% 33% 10% 21% 54% 46%
Jan–Mar 2015 Newspoll [74] 36% 33% 10% 21% 54% 46%
Oct–Dec 2014 Newspoll [74] 35% 33% 10% 22% 53% 47%
Jul–Sep 2014 Newspoll [74] 34% 36% 9% 21% 51% 49%
15 Mar 2014 election 35.8% 44.8% 8.7% 10.7% 47.0% 53.0%
10–13 Mar 2014 Newspoll [75] 34% 41% 9% 16% 47.7% 52.3%
21–27 Feb 2014 Newspoll [75] 34% 44% 7% 15% 46% 54%
Better Premier and satisfaction polling^
Date Firm Better Premier Weatherill Marshall
Weatherill Marshall Satisfied Dissatisfied Satisfied Dissatisfied
Oct–Dec 2017 Newspoll [66] 37% 32% 34% 53% 27% 50%
Oct–Dec 2015 Newspoll [74] 42% 27% 37% 46% 30% 44%
Apr–Jun 2015 Newspoll [74] 48% 29% 45% 43% 41% 39%
Jan–Mar 2015 Newspoll [74] 47% 31% 43% 41% 41% 37%
Oct–Dec 2014 Newspoll [74] 47% 29% 46% 42% 35% 42%
Jul–Sep 2014 Newspoll [74] 45% 30% 45% 37% 40% 34%
15 Mar 2014 election
10–13 Mar 2014 Newspoll [75] 43% 37% 42% 42% 42% 35%
21–27 Feb 2014 Newspoll [75] 40% 39% 43% 44% 45% 29%
^ Remainder were "uncommitted" to either leader.

See also[edit]


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