Tasmania was always the more interesting of last month’s two state
elections, and remained so to the end with the Greens holding on to
their representation in a nail-biting finish. But the final results in the South Australian lower house are also worth a look.

The close finish was Stuart, where Australia’s longest-serving MP,
Graham Gunn, made up ground on postal and absentee votes to hold his
seat for yet another term, by the margin of 233 votes. That reduced
Labor’s gain to six seats, giving them 29 seats in a house of 47: plus
three independents and one National Party, all of whom are in varying
degrees government supporters.

The interesting thing is to look at the post-election pendulum. It’s
not exactly what will apply at the next election, since South Australia
holds a redistribution every term, but it’s still a useful basis to
work with – because redistributions are so frequent, they rarely make
major changes.

Of the 11 marginal seats on the new pendulum (those with margins less
than 6%), only four of them belong to the ALP: three that it
gained at this election (Light, Mawson and Hartley), plus Norwood,
previously its most marginal seat and still uncomfortably vulnerable at
4.2%. The other three Labor gains swung enough to put them past the 6%
mark in one go.

Six of the marginals are Liberal-held – Stuart, Unley, Heysen, Frome,
Waite and Morphett – with the eleventh belonging to ex-Labor
independent Kris Hanna (0.6% from the ALP). In other words, despite
suffering the worst result in its history, South Australia’s Liberal
Party still has more seats at risk for 2010 than its opponents.

It’s a good wake-up call not just for them but for all the other state
Liberal Parties who, after huge losses, assumed that the only way they
could go was up.

Not so: there’s no law that says Mike Rann has to lose ground in four
years’ time, and if the Liberals fail to get their act together they
may find, like Robert Doyle’s forces in Victoria, that they have to
give as much attention to defence as to attack.

Peter Fray

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