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Significant implications for Legislative Council

Monday, 20 March 2006

Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Adelaide, Dr Clem Macintyre, gives his analysis of the weekend's State election result.

The following comments can be attributed to Dr Clem Macintyre, Senior Lecturer, Discipline of Politics, University of Adelaide. For further comments about any aspect of the State election, please contact Dr Macintyre on his contact details listed below.

With the bulk of the votes counted it is quite clear that the ALP Government has been returned with a clear and commanding majority. Labor will hold at least 28 seats in the House of Assembly. The Liberals will have at least 14 Members. Karlene Maywald (Nationals) and Independents Rory McEwen and Bob Such have both been returned. It is not yet clear which way the seats of Stuart (Graham Gunn, Liberal) and Mitchell (Kris Hanna, Independent) will fall.

Although the extent of the state-wide swing (just over 9%) was stronger than most polls predicted, it was consistent with the overall direction that most analysts expected.

From the outset, the ALP presented a more professional and focused approach to the campaign. The Liberals were forced to concentrate their very limited resources on a series of local skirmishes based on selected seats. They never looked like challenging the authority of the Government or denting the appeal of the Premier.

The Government will now have a comfortable majority in the House of Assembly and doubtless the final wash-up of the close seats will hold attention. However, the battle for seats in the Legislative Council will be every bit as fascinating.

Between them, Labor and Liberal attracted just under 80% of the primary vote for Lower House candidates. Yet in the Legislative Council, they managed just over 62%. In other words, more than 17% of all voters chose to 'move' their support from one of the major parties in the Lower House to one of the minor groups in the Upper House. This is a huge number and a 'gap' of this size will have the main parties worried.

In 2002 the Liberals gained more than 40% of the Legislative Council vote. This election their share of the vote was slightly more than half this (25.5%). That just over 1 in 4 voters chose to vote Liberal in the Upper House is an extraordinary figure. For their part Labor's vote in the Legislative Council has risen nearly 4% - but worryingly there is a 9% gap between their House of Assembly and Legislative Council share of the vote.

As the campaign developed, it was clear that there was growing support for Nick Xenophon's challenge to the dominance of the major parties. The final result may well see Family First and the Greens joining Nick Xenophon and his running mate in the Legislative Council.

The overall balance will then be 8 ALP members,
8 Liberals, 2 No-Pokies, 2 Family First, 1 Democrat and 1 Green. Results like these suggest that Mike Rann will have a demanding task if his proposed referendum to abolish the Upper House is to be carried at the next election on 20 March 2010.

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