SA Votes 2018 – Issue 1

Issue 1, 15 February 2018

The South Australian State Election will be held on Saturday, 17 March 2018. The incumbent Weatherill Labor Government will defend its 16-year administration, looking to hold government for a record fifth term. In an Australian political rarity, Labor is up against two other major parties: the Liberal Party, led by Steven Marshall, and Nick Xenophon’s fledgling SA Best. The writs will be issued this Saturday, 17 February (28 days before polling day), with campaign activity expected to intensify from this weekend.

GRACosway will be distributing a weekly election newsletter during the four-week campaign, featuring analysis of campaign activities, policy announcements, polling and other political developments.

Political landscape

This election presents a political landscape uncharted in the state, and indeed the nation.

A significant electoral boundary redistribution finalised in 2017 saw four seats notionally change hands from Labor to Liberal based on the 2014 election results, putting the Liberal Party ahead in two-party preferred (2PP) terms. This redistribution resulted in a number of sitting members, from both major parties, announcing their intention to contest different seats.

Adding to the complexity of notional 2PP changes, three major party members joined the crossbench during 2017. An additional 11 sitting Lower House members will retire at the election, removing the incumbency factor in these seats and pushing them further into the unknown.

In considering public confidence in the existing major parties, neither is regarded as performing strongly. Commentators continue to criticise the Labor Government for contentious issues in the energy, health, and child protection portfolios, as well as observing that the Liberal Opposition is struggling to achieve cut-through on key political issues.

The most significant factor to consider in painting a picture of the South Australian political landscape is the emergence of Nick Xenophon’s SA Best as a genuine third major party. Media has thus far not provided comprehensive coverage of Labor and Liberal activities and announcements, instead focused on Xenophon’s movements; this is likely to contribute to increased public awareness of the new party and may have an effect on the election outcome.

Polling has been inconsistent and inconclusive since the launch of SA Best, as demonstrated in the below table. With this true three-way race, predicting a 2PP outcome becomes impossible, and the likelihood of a hung parliament with Nick Xenophon holding the balance of power becomes ever more likely.

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