SA Votes 2018: Liberals Claim Victory

Marshalling a “new dawn” for SA

The Liberal Party will form a majority government in South Australia, marking the end of Labor’s 16-year rule and delivering what Premier-elect Steven Marshall has described as a “new dawn” for the State. The Liberals have secured 24 Lower House seats, compared to Labor’s 18, while three seats have been retained by incumbent independents and two remain in doubt. Upper House results are not yet clear, but the Liberal and Labor parties are expected to secure four seats each, with SA Best taking two and the final seat going to the Greens. The Liberals triumphed despite a swing of 7.4 per cent against the Party, managing to capture 37.4 per cent of the primary vote state-wide, compared to Labor’s 33.9 per cent and 13.7 per cent for SA Best.

Mr Marshall, incoming Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman and Treasurer Rob Lucas have been sworn in this morning; the full Cabinet will follow on Thursday.


Despite expectations that Nick Xenophon’s SA Best would hold the balance of power following the election, the Party experienced a collapse in support on polling day and has failed to win a single lower house seat. Notably, Nick Xenophon has been defeated in the north-eastern suburbs seat of Hartley by Liberal incumbent Vincent Tarzia. Mr Xenophon conceded that he spread himself too thin during the campaign while describing his Party’s results – no Lower House seats but likely two in the Upper House – as a “mixed bag”. For the first time in more than 20 years, Mr Xenophon will not hold a seat in an Australian parliament, with his attempted return to SA politics described as a failed experiment. While he has ruled out a return to any form of politics in the near future, he claims his Party is already looking to the 2022 SA Election and that he’s “not going to be going anywhere”.

The election result became clear earlier than expected, with outgoing Premier Jay Weatherill conceding defeat just before 10pm on Saturday night after phoning to congratulate Mr Marshall on his Party’s victory. Celebrating an “extraordinary 16 years of achievement”, Mr Weatherill paid tribute to his predecessor Mike Rann and singled out cabinet colleague Leon Bignell, who is fighting to hold on to his too-close-to-call seat of Mawson. In a surprisingly upbeat address, Mr Weatherill also pointed to Labor’s leadership on renewable energy, its record in transforming the State’s economy and efforts to make Adelaide a “vibrant, exciting, thriving” city.

A triumphant Steven Marshall addressed Liberal Party faithful at 10:15pm, thanking South Australians for entrusting the Liberals to deliver a “brighter future” for South Australia after “some very dark days”. Acknowledging the Liberal Party state executive, his shadow cabinet, retiring MPs and candidates, Mr Marshall also paid special tribute to MP Vincent Tarzia for his efforts in warding off Nick Xenophon’s challenge in the seat of Hartley. The “humbled” and “delighted” Premier-elect also reflected on his Party’s commitment to securing a majority government “to drive the reform agenda that we so desperately need” – a strategy once ridiculed which now seems to have paid off.

Mr Marshall gave his first press conference on Sunday morning, confirming he will deliver “every item” on the Liberals’ list of election commitments. Speaking from Henley Square in the western suburbs, the Premier-elect once again committed to creating more jobs, addressing cost of living concerns and cutting taxes, starting with a reduction in the emergency services levy from July 1. Liberal MPs will receive briefings from public servants today, with Mr Marshall confirming that the same line up of shadow ministers will serve in the Liberal Cabinet, potentially with some “minor tweaking of portfolios”. The Premier-elect has already met with Governor Hieu van Le to begin the formal process of forming government.

Mr Weatherill has stepped down as Labor leader, heading to the backbench to focus on being a “good local member”. Peter Malinauskas – who comfortably completed his transition to the Lower House by cruising to victory in Croydon – is a favourite to succeed Mr Weatherill. Mr Weatherill chose the redeveloped Adelaide Oval as the location of his post-election press conference, where he admitted to reporters that he felt a sense of “relief” the morning after the election.

The Battlegrounds

The Independents

In a strong showing for the independents, former Liberal Troy Bell will be returned as an independent in Mount Gambier, while Frome independent Geoff Brock – who backed Labor in 2014 – will also serve another four years. Frances Bedford held her seat of Florey as an independent after quitting the Labor Party amid a preselection stoush, while in Morphett, independent Duncan McFetridge was not so lucky, being edged out by his former preselection opponent, the Liberals’ Stephen Patterson.

SA Best

While running a very close second in the Adelaide Hills seat of Heysen and giving the Liberals a scare in Fleurieu Peninsula seat Finniss, SA Best failed to pose a real threat in other key seats. Labor’s Nat Cook has cruised home in Hurtle Vale, despite predictions of a strong showing by SA Best. A similar story played out in the northern suburbs seats of Playford and Ramsay, where Labor was concerned about SA Best’s prospects. Nick Xenophon’s party did relatively well in Taylor, securing 24.6 per cent of the primary vote, but peaked at around 18 per cent of the primary vote in Enfield, Port Adelaide and Elizabeth. While Legislative Council vote counting can take weeks, it is expected that SA Best will secure two seats, rather than the three or four originally predicted.

The Marginals

In key marginals, the Liberals have claimed the Labor-held seats of Newland, Colton and Elder, which became notionally Liberal following the electoral redistribution. The Liberals have also gained the new seat of King in the outer northern suburbs. The ABC’s election calculator indicates Labor will hold Badcoe, Lee, Light, Torrens and Wright, while placing Gibson and Black on the Liberal side of the ledger. The inner-city seat of Adelaide remains too close to call, with Liberal incumbent Rachel Sanderson currently trailing Labor’s Jo Chapley by a few hundred votes. Mawson is also coming down to the wire, with Labor’s Leon Bignell unexpectedly in front and almost 70 per cent of votes counted. Liberal Party strategists have indicated that they remain confident in both Adelaide and Mawson, expecting that the high volume of postal and pre-poll votes yet to be counted will favour the Liberal candidates.

Key points

  • More than 1.2 million South Australians were registered to vote in this year’s election – an increase of more than 60,000 since 2014.
  • More than 215,000 people voted prior to election day, including 120,000 at pre-polling centres and around 97,000 via post, with numbers well up on previous elections
  • The approximate 300,000 declaration votes (postal, pre-poll and absentee) will be counted from today and continue throughout the week as postal votes continue to arrive.
  • Final Legislative Council results may not be known until mid-April.
  • Mr Weatherill was confronted by a lone protestor wanting to talk about cost of living and energy issues as he prepared to vote at a polling booth in his Cheltenham electorate on Saturday.
  • Nick Xenophon Team Senator Rex Patrick – who took over Mr Xenophon’s Senate seat last year – said the party leader is welcome to have his seat back following a failed attempt to win Hartley.
  • Outgoing Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis was comfortably returned in West Torrens with a small swing and told reporters SA Best’s presence in the campaign had “muffled a lot of the attacks on [Liberal Leader] Steven Marshall”, while also paying tribute to Jay Weatherill’s “remarkable campaign”.


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