SA Votes 2018: The Seats that will Decide an Election

14 March 2018

The Campaign Trail

In the final week of the South Australian 2018 Election campaign, the major parties have intensified their efforts, campaigning hard on the ground and relying on party heavy-weights to lend support.

Premier Jay Weatherill shared an endorsement from former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, while federal Shadow Minister of State Don Farrell seized the opportunity to criticise SA Best Leader Nick Xenophon for charging his party interest on a loan to fund his own campaign. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spent the long weekend campaigning with Opposition Leader Steven Marshall, while Federal Minister Christopher Pyne has lent his support to Liberal MP and candidate for Hartley, Vincent Tarzia.

Meanwhile, in response to the media’s declining support, Mr Xenophon has stated that he has been unable to campaign to his desired level in his seat of Hartley because he has been “stretched too thin” supporting 36 SA Best candidates across the State.

Television, radio, online and social media advertising is in full swing, with negative messaging being used by all parties in this late stage of the campaign. The Labor Party has launched a scare campaign reminding voters of past privatisations by the Liberal Party, while the Liberals have used robocalls to accuse Premier Weatherill of planning to increase the GST. Both parties, with the support of the Australian Hotels’ Association, are fiercely attacking Nick Xenophon, warning of pub closures and huge job losses if SA Best’s pokies policy comes into force. This advertising will continue up until the legislated broadcast blackout period, which begins on Thursday.

The final leaders’ debate will be broadcast tonight; expect to see the negative messaging and scare tactics on show as the leaders use the platform as their final opportunity to criticise their opponents. The debate will be screened live on and Sky News from 7.30pm tonight.

Who will form Government?

While statewide polling has been inconclusive, betting agencies are tipping a Labor Government; the incumbent’s chances have increased and SA Best’s fallen as the election draws closer. However, it is still believed that the most recent Newspoll, showing the Liberal Party with 32 per cent of the primary vote and Labor with 30 per cent, suggests that neither party will win enough seats to form a majority government.

The Newspoll also showed SA Best’s primary vote falling to 21 per cent, causing commentators to speculate that Nick Xenophon’s party may win only a handful of seats. Adding to their falling numbers is the concern that the SA Best vote will be spread thin across the State, and potentially see them fail to win any seats. It is this approach – running a strong statewide campaign but neglecting to convert key seats – that saw the Liberal Party lose the 2014 State Election with 53 per cent of the two-party preferred (2PP) statewide vote.

As a result, statewide primary vote polling is largely ineffective in indicating who will form Government following this weekend’s election. Below, we identify the seats to watch on Election Day.

The Battlegrounds

The Notional Changes

Due to the 2016 electoral boundary redistribution, four seats have swung towards the Liberal Party since the 2014 State Election. Colton, Elder, Mawson and Newland are currently held by the Labor Party, but are now considered notionally Liberal. Mawson should be watched carefully, with almost a nine per cent notional swing towards the Liberal Party, and is still considered a marginal seat.

The Marginals

Following the 2016 electoral boundary redistribution, one third of the 47 Lower House seats now have notional margins under five per cent, making them key targets for all parties. Seats including Adelaide, Badcoe, Black, Colton, Elder, Gibson, King, Lee, Light, Mawson, Torrens and Wright could all swing to any of the major parties at this election.

The SA Best Targets

SA Best is also targeting a number of these marginal seats, hoping to split the vote enough to win with preferences. Mr Xenophon is a real chance in his seat of Hartley, although an Advertiser-Galaxy poll published this week shows that he is no longer the favourite. Hurtle Vale is another SA Best target; it was held by Independent Bob Such before his death and has now undergone a significant boundary change and renaming.

Following the success of the Nick Xenophon Team at the 2016 Federal Election across the Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula, the state seats of Heysen, Morialta, Kavel and Finniss are also expected to attract a strong result for SA Best candidates.

Typically considered Labor strongholds, northern suburbs seats including Taylor, Playford, Elizabeth, Ramsay, Port Adelaide and Enfield are also targets for SA Best, with voters disenchanted with the major parties following the closure of the Holden factory. A similar situation is playing out in Whyalla-based Giles.

The Independents

Four of the current Independent members of parliament are re-contesting their seats. Troy Bell is the favourite to retain Mount Gambier, despite recent charges of theft forcing him to resign from the Liberal Party. Geoff Brock is expected to be re-elected in Frome, which he has represented as an Independent member of Premier Weatherill’s cabinet for the past four years. The Labor Party will be anxiously watching the result in Florey, where Frances Bedford looks likely to hold her seat as an Independent after she failed to be pre-selected by her former party. Former Liberal Duncan McFetridge looks less likely to hold Morphett, however should not be discounted with a strong local following.

Following the Vote

Vote counting is expected to be prolonged at this election. With a three-way split in votes, determining 2PP outcomes across booths within each electorate will be complex and in some cases inaccurate; true 2PP counting will occur at central centres from Sunday. In addition, the high number (potentially up to 30 per cent of eligible votes) of pre poll, absentee and postal votes will be counted from Monday. In such a tight election, these votes will be vital to determining outcomes in many seats, meaning we may not know results for individual seats until the middle or end of next week.

With a significant number of SA Best and Independent candidates potentially being elected, a hung parliament seems likely, but also presents a probable further delay in determining the next government. History shows us that these negotiations could take weeks.

The Announcements


Premier Weatherill announced that a Labor Government will double the funding provided to Investment Attraction South Australia to create South Australian jobs. The funding will include an additional $30 million towards grants and $30 million for low-interest loans. A further jobs announcement included $25 million towards a new Food Innovation Hub at the Northern Adelaide Food Park, which will create 300 construction jobs and 150 ongoing positions. Continuing on this theme for the final week of the campaign, Labor has announced a $100 million skills package, focusing on funding TAFE SA to provide training for jobs of the future.


The Liberal Party will expand the CBD tram network, including adding a right-hand turn at the King William Street and North Terrace intersection. Mr Marshall also revealed his Party’s top 10 infrastructure priorities to be assessed by Infrastructure South Australia and announced an increase in the tax-free threshold for the application of land tax for small and medium businesses.

SA Best

SA Best has revealed a plan to cut payroll tax for small businesses that employ additional full time workers. With a focus on regional South Australia this week, the Party has released a mining and agriculture policy, which increases protections for farmers over future mining projects, as well as a policy to establish local committees to improve public transport in rural and regional areas.


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