South Australian state election 2014

2 Jul 2014

The re-election of a Labor Government at the 2014 South Australian state election came as a surprise to many. This paper provides an overview of the election campaigns and the results.

Executive summary

The re-election of a Labor Government at the 2014 South Australian (SA) state election came as a surprise to many. Opinion polls had consistently indicated that, after a long period in office—under Premier Mike Rann and his successor Jay Weatherill—the electorate had tired of Labor.

Not long after becoming Premier in October 2011, Weatherill was hampered by controversies not entirely of his own making. Steven Marshall, a first term parliamentarian, had become the Liberals’ leader in February 2013.

News that General Motors Holden would cease manufacturing cars in Adelaide came as a blow to an already struggling economy, and state debt loomed large in voters’ minds when a budget deficit of over $1 billion was revealed.

Weatherill called the election for 15 March. On the evening preceding the announcement a Seven Network Reach-Tel poll had given the Liberals a 55–45 lead.

Apart from the overall concern about South Australia’s economy, the election campaign was largely animated by the traditional issues of healthcare, education and transport infrastructure.

When the election was barely a week away, The Sunday Mail and The Advertiser reiterated their strong advocacy for a change of government.

Given the widespread expectation of such a change, it was surprising to many that, a day or so after the election, the result was not readily apparent. A result seemed likely to remain unsettled for many days, and a hung parliament seemed the most likely outcome. What was not in doubt was that the Liberals had received a comfortable majority (53 per cent) of the overall two-party preferred vote. There had been much interest in marginal seats, which had the potential to determine the election outcome.

The focus shifted quickly to the two independents who were expected to determine who would ultimately govern South Australia—Bob Such (Fisher) and Geoff Brock (Frome). On Sunday 24 March, with Labor holding 23 seats and the Liberals 22, Brock declared that he would support a Labor minority government in order to avoid the potential for instability, including the possibility of another election. Fellow independent, Bob Such, had recently revealed that he was taking leave from Parliament to be treated for a brain tumour.

Labor’s win—in the context of the contrast between the votes won by the Liberals and their actual number of seats—resurrected a familiar argument about ‘fairness’ in South Australia’s electoral system. Responding to these concerns, Premier Weatherill said that he would be looking at SA’s electoral arrangements.

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