SA election: a curtain-raiser to Federal election?

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South Australians head to the polls tomorrow for a State Election that may prove to be an important curtain-raiser for the Federal Poll in May. 

In this pre-election briefing we look at the respective campaign commitments and likely election outcomes and what the result may tell us about voters’ attitudes and preferences just a few weeks before they make their decisions on who will run Australia.  

Current SA Parliament  

  • 47 seat House of Assembly, 24 seats are required for majority government 
  • Liberals have notionally 23 seats
  • Labor have notionally 20 seats 
  • 4 former Liberal members on the crossbench may influence the outcome and next government 
  • The Liberal Government is led by the Premier Steven Marshall (in his first term as Premier) 
  • Labor is led by first term Opposition leader Peter Malinauskas 


Where it will be won 

The election will be a tough seat by seat contest.  Voters in marginal seats may be swayed by hyper-local issues rather that state-wide issues and this provides the Liberals with an outside chance of holding on despite the state-wide polls.  

Seats to watch 

Liberal held seats to watch Labor held seats to watch Independent held seats
Newland (0.1%) Mawson (0.7%) Waite
King (0.6%) Badcoe (4.8%) Kavel
Adelaide (1.0%) Narungga
Elder (1.9%) Mount Gambier

Narratives of the election campaign  


The COVID-19 crisis has dominated SA politics for the last two years. The public generally supported Premier Marshall’s handling of the pandemic but this seems to have shifted with the Omicron outbreak late last year, particularly whether the SA Liberal Government was ready for the re-opening of State borders.  

Mr Marshall’s narrative for re-election focuses on the renewed strength of the SA economy, its population growth, record infrastructure spend, and the success in attracting international investment in Lot 14 (the former CBD hospital site) and growth in its defence, cyber and space sectors.  

Mr Marshall has also promised to continue the transformation of the Adelaide riverfront by building a $662 million “Riverbank Arena”, a 15,000-capacity indoor entertainment venue.  


Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas has taken a different tack, run a very strong health campaign, focusing on ambulance ramping and promising to increase the numbers of doctors, ambulance officers, nurses and hospital beds. Labor has also localised its health campaign to target swinging voters in marginal seats. 

Their economic and industry policy is centred around a green hydrogen jobs plan (utilising the State’s renewable energy), a manufacturing grant program, five new trade schools and a taskforce to investigate a merger of two of the state’s three Universities. 

The major election spending announcements  

The Liberals 

  • $662m for the Riverbank Arena 

  • $65m towards a plant protein initiative 
  • $52m to upgrade the Lyell McEwin Hospital and carpark 
  • $30m for a hydrogen hub 
  • $23m for a direct flights attraction fund and new trade offices 
  • $97m to expand Adelaide Botanic High School 


  • $1.2bn over four years for health initiatives, including 300 extra beds, 350 extra paramedics and ambulance officers, 300 extra nurses and 100 extra doctors  
  • $593m for the party’s hydrogen jobs plan   

  • $336m for education and skills policies, including five new technical colleges 
  • $181m to build 400 new homes for the needy  
  • $125m to duplicate Main South Rd  
  • $80m to fully fund a redevelopment of the Adelaide Aquatic Centre 

The polls 

The most recent poll taken between March 7-13 showed the Labor party grew their two-party preferred lead with a result of 56 – 44. This follows a poll on February 26 that has the Labor primary vote up notably since the last election translating into a state-wide two party preferred lead 53 to 47. (Mr Malinauskas is also the preferred Premier by a margin of 46 – 39 per cent). If the polls are replicated uniformly on polling day that would be enough for the election of a Labor government.   

Election outcomes – three possible outcomes  

For the first time since COVID-19 emerged in Australia, an incumbent government could lose an election. With the South Australian economy in a strong position, the election will tell us whether the community has banked the economic gains and turned their attention to other issues such as health and cost of living.  

Based on the current polls and local intelligence, we believe there are three likely outcomes:  

  1. A Labor majority government on a uniform swing of well above 2%  
  2. The Marshall Government is returned in minority with support of the Independents 
  3. A Labor minority government with support of the Independents 

Federal implications 

A Labor victory in South Australia would ring the alarm bells for the Morrison Government that is also behind in the polls. Although SA is not a key battleground State, Boothby being the only one targeted marginal federal seat in South Australia, a significant swing to Labor may also put other seats in doubt.  

It is also clear that Labor has had a clear campaign edge with its charismatic leader Peter Malinauskas and if Labor win, that may have made the difference. However both parties will study the results on trends that after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, incumbency may now have become a political disadvantage.   

What’s next? 

Whoever wins, there will be a new Treasurer and a number of new ministers in senior portfolios. For a full South Australian election analysis and likely new ministers, see our post-election brief early next week.



Matt Williams[email protected]

Finn McCarthy[email protected]

Nick Maher – [email protected]

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