The Future of South Australian Politics – Trends and Predictions

The Future of South Australian Politics Trends and Predictions

The SA Government is investing in a growing economy. Continuing the Instant Asset Write-Off for small businesses. Providing further tax and cost-of-living relief for families. Keeping people safe in their homes and local communities, including a commitment to online safety reforms.

HiAP’s focus on co-benefits and its problematisation of equity closed off the small policy space that would have allowed for an equity-focused approach.

1. The Electoral System

South Australia is a state that has always been, first and foremost, a political entity. It carries with it a range of local political baggage – parliamentary institutions, voting habits and policy legacies – invented and developed over what is, by any fair international measure, a long period of uninterrupted democratic politics.

As such, it is a state with a highly visible political culture. It is a place where the activities of the state government – whether it be hospital administration, school curricula or police services – are regularly debated in public and in the media.

The state is governed by a bicameral parliament, with the House of Assembly (the lower house) consisting of 47 single-member electorates and the Legislative Council (the upper house) consisting of 22 members, who are elected at large across the whole state on a proportional representation system. Legislation passes through both houses before being enacted into law.

Unlike many other Australian states, South Australia does not use the traditional two-party system. Instead, there are a number of minor parties and independents who compete for the votes of South Australians.

In the lead up to this year’s state election, several of these groups are putting forward candidates for both the House of Assembly and Legislative Council. The group with the highest number of seats wins a majority in each chamber and is then able to govern. The leader of the winning party or coalition is titled the Premier of South Australia and this person leads the state’s government. The Premier must also have the support of the Opposition and the minor parties in order to pass legislation through both houses of parliament.

2. The Liberal Party

South Australia is a state that has long been a politically active jurisdiction. It has a parliamentary government with a statewide electoral system and is subject to the full range of locally sourced political pressure – parliamentary opposition, journalists and the media, business lobbies, trade unions, professional associations, environmental organisations and community activists.

This election will be a choice between the Coalition Government which is building a strong economy for all Australians, and a Labor Party that would weaken the economy and take us back to recession. It will be a choice between responsible financial management that has delivered the biggest Budget turnaround in 70 years, and a Labor Party that would go back to the bad old days of running up debts, rising power prices and cutting vital services.

It will also be a choice between keeping our country safe by stopping the boats, stopping deaths at sea and disrupting people smuggling, or continuing to build on the record of success we have had on domestic violence prevention and investing record levels of funding into schools, hospitals, roads and regional infrastructure projects. It will be a choice between a Coalition Government that is committed to growing small businesses, creating jobs and strengthening the middle class, or a Labor Government that wants to raise your taxes and cut vital services.

The Liberals have a difficult job ahead of them in defending their majority, but they remain confident that momentum is with them. They point to a number of polling data points that suggest they are in a good position, and boast of one of the best marginal seat campaign teams in the nation – which once dressed up volunteers in Family First t-shirts in Elder, and is credited with sandbagging Elder for Marshall in 2014. Despite all this, confidence is tempered by SA’s propensity to keep politics weird. Nick Xenophon is campaigning in 37 lower house seats, and his SA-BEST party could hold the balance of power if neither Marshall nor Labor win outright.

3. The Labor Party

The state’s bicameral parliament is made up of the House of Assembly, which has 47 single-member electoral districts, and the Legislative Council, with 22 members elected at large. The state uses a preferential system for voting and requires the assent of both houses for legislation to take effect. South Australia is a former colony of the British Empire and its constitution is heavily influenced by Westminster-style governance, particularly the doctrine of responsible government.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Liberal leader Scott Morrison has promised to bring back jobs to SA, while Labor chief Michaelia Malinauskas has pushed ahead with big spending pledges like a new city entertainment arena and a $593 million hydrogen plant. But the Marshall government’s reliance on social policy – including private member bills supporting abortion and voluntary euthanasia – has alienated conservative MPs, and the axing of the Adelaide 500 Supercar race has highlighted the party’s difficulty pitching itself to suburban voters.

Meanwhile, the disarray triggered by the departure of conservative minister Vickie Chapman and the subsequent resignation of deputy Dan Cregan over allegations of expense fraud has left Marshall struggling to maintain unity within his ranks. He has downplayed suggestions of a split, saying voters are more interested in outcomes than the politics.

The election may also be a test of Marshall’s ability to attract the support of independents and the right-wing SA Best party founded by former federal senator Nick Xenophon. The party has been buoyed by the implosion of the centrist SA Best, which lost nearly all its seats at the state election last year. It has also been helped by the Liberals’ bungled attempts to pass anti-bikie laws that are not supported by medical experts.

4. The Greens

The Greens are currently a minor player in South Australian politics but their influence is growing. They are a key bridge between leftists and conservatives, supporting policies that push forward climate action and protect and restore the environment. The party also has strong support among young voters. Its South Australian candidate, Eduardo Jorge, became a meme for his spontaneity and humour in the televised debates and gained a significant following on social media.

The South Australian Government believes that all people deserve to have a home that they can call their own. To help first home buyers get a foot on the property ladder, it has abolished stamp duty for those building or buying new homes. It will also improve housing affordability for renters by reducing the cost of rental bonds and banning rent bidding.

Across SA, the government is investing to grow our primary industries and boost regional jobs. From world-renowned wine regions to our thriving food and agricultural sectors, we want to see them continue to grow and create jobs. To do that, we will double the assets test exemption to two years for pensioners when downsizing from their family homes, and will work with local communities to support sustainable agriculture in areas like Yorke Peninsula.

The state election is taking place just a month before the national poll, and Haydon Manning, adjunct associate professor in politics, policy and global affairs at Flinders University, says it will be very close. He says there are many unknowns about how the vote will turn out – local issues such as swimming pools, public transport and development decisions could swing different seats, while bigger pledges like Marshall’s signature city entertainment arena and Labor’s $593 million hydrogen power plant could help them in key marginals.

5. The Independents

South Australian political culture is often portrayed as moderately progressive, with an emphasis on extending the rights of women and minorities. This progressivism is attributed to the pioneering nineteenth-century advances in electoral reform, the transformation from an agrarian to urban industrial profile during the ‘Dunstan decade’, and the enlightened social policy programs of the early 1970s.

The state operates a bicameral parliament modelled on the British Westminster system, with the executive being formed by the party or coalition that exerts a majority in the House of Assembly. The Governor acts on the advice of Ministers, headed by the Premier. The state’s judicial system comprises the Supreme Court, District Court and Magistrates Courts. The highest level of courts hear the most serious civil and criminal cases while less severe matters are dealt with by lower-level courts.

Politicians are elected to represent specific electorates in the House of Assembly or the whole state in the Legislative Council. The government is made up of the political party or coalition of parties that wins the most seats at a state election, with the leader becoming the Premier of South Australia.

Legislative Assembly Members work with the community to put together laws and bills that will benefit the state. This involves discussing and voting on issues, conducting inquiries and addressing complaints.

The House of Assembly has 47 members who represent single-member electoral districts. It is here that most legislation starts, although the Legislative Council can review and amend any bills passed by the House of Assembly. Members of the Legislative Council are voted into office for a term of 8 years, with half of the Council seats being filled at each state election.