Saturday’s result in South Australia was an old story. The other states
had all been there before: every first-term Labor government, with the
exception of Western Australia, got a swing of more than 6% when
seeking re-election. And the polls consistently said it would happen in
South Australia as well. (Saturday morning’s Newspoll tipped an 8% swing.)

Politicians still like to pretend that they can’t see the obvious. Hence premier Mike Rann on Saturday
saying, “I think it’s going to be very, very close”. But no-one believed
them this time, and even the Liberals on Saturday night looked a bit
less shattered than they have in the other states – they knew what was
coming.

It was a good result for Newspoll. Psephologists have been slightly
sceptical since Sol Lebovic blotted his copybook at the 2004 federal
election, but they came good on Saturday. Although a figure of 10% has
been mentioned, my quick calculation from Antony Green’s figures at the
ABC site puts the two-party-preferred swing a little under 8%.

That’s still enough for a record result for Labor. Their previous best
was 54.9% 2PP (Dean Jaensch’s estimate) at the 1962 election – an
election that, remarkably enough, they lost, due to the huge
malapportionment of the time.

The other record from Saturday is the amazing performance of Nick
Xenophon, anti-pokies independent, with 21.5% of the vote in the upper
house – enough to comfortably elect himself and a running mate, and
close to getting a third (“Xenophon 3 – sounds like a planet on Star
Trek”, as one comment on Poll Bludger
put it). Whether he can transform himself from a gadfly to a serious
political force will be one of the interesting questions for the next
four years.

Xenophon certainly overshadowed the otherwise strong performance from
Family First, and probably accounted for the fact that (unusually for a
minor party) their vote was stronger in the lower house than the upper.
Even so, in Kavel, their one (faint) hope of winning a lower house
seat, Tom Playford actually did worse as a Family First candidate than
he had in 2002 as an independent.

Peter Fray

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