• Wayne Phillips

Liberals need to get a life


Former deputy premier Vickie Chapman, former premier Steven Marshall and former water minister David Speirs

Labor easily dismantled the SA Liberals at the 2022 State Election, Wayne Phillips writes, saying there may be an ethical reason beyond the policy contests explaining why the Liberals were routed in one term, banished to the political wilderness:


Whilst one could draw on policy and campaign initiatives that saw Labor on the front foot during the lead up to the election, like the Adelaide 500, Regional Health and Ambo ramping versus a basketball stadium. These are contributed by others as evidence for the landslide win to Labor. But in reality, the Liberals lost the election due to a lack of policy differentiation and a disintegration in the last parliament (while they held government) on life issues.


This caused pressure groups like Australian Christian Lobby, Love Adelaide and the Catholic and Orthodox Churches to get behind a re-emerged Family First and even One Nation Candidates to preference against Liberal and Labor members who had voted against life, particularly in the August 2021 Abortion Up to Birth capitulation. As Labor enjoyed the swing, this did not affect their members getting re-elected, however it had a dramatic effect on the Liberal hopes of being returned for a second term.


The only anomaly is the electorate of Frome where the Liberals appear to have won a seat via re-distribution. We are not aware of Penny Pratts's stance for or against life issues.


Here are the numbers which support the above hypothesis that the Liberals lost the State election due to their voting across 3 key life issues in the Liberal term of government, those being:

  • Abortion up to birth,

  • Euthanasia and

  • Legalising Prostitution (without implementing the Nordic Model to give sex workers a way of escaping the industry).

Sitting Liberal Seats lost to Labor where the member voted against life (for Abortion to birth etc)

  • Adelaide – Minister Rachel Sanderson (strangely all Ministers backed Chapman). Rachel had the Rice Report and while attempting to move a doctors literature amendment to the Abortion Bill was not convincing and later voted against life.

  • Gibson – Minister Corey Wingard (as above)

  • King – Paula Luethen (an active Christian) voted against legalising prostitution then strangely voted through Abortion and Euthanasia bills

  • Newland – Richard Harvey was heavily lobbied by the Chapman camp to move his vote

At time of writing, 5 other blue ribbon Liberal seats were in doubt following massive swings to Labor where Family First and other conservative preferences were directed against the Liberal candidate

  • Dunstan – Premier Steven Marshall was widely critiqued in Life Movement circles for not even being in the house for much of the debate. At time of writing he will lose this seat to Labor on Family First preferences 4.4%.

  • Morialta – John Gardners electorate is a strong Christian area with Family First polling 7.5%

  • Unley – David Pisoni’s electorate. No Family First. May actually save Pisoni. Margin .3%

  • Heysen – Josh Teague may survive despite preferences which has One Nation at 5% and Family First at 4.2% and a Greens Vote of plus 20% helping Labor make it very marginal.

Liberal holds that voted against Life:

  • Bragg – A massive 12% swing that has taken the once most safe Liberal seat into marginal territory largely due to Vicki Chapman and here Attorney General failure on Kangaroo Island issue and her sponsoring the anti life bills with socialist and feminist left wing Green and Labor Members. Family First polled 5% as a new candidate clearly coming off of Chapmans primary vote.

  • Chaffey – Tim Whetstone is maybe one of 3 success stories for the Liberals in the Lower House. Suffered a 6.7% swing on primary vote. But the 10.6% to One Nation, 5.6% to Nationals and 3.9% to Family First must be considered as an Independent backlash of 20.1 that represents the life issues and vaccine mandate protest. SA Best in 2018 polled 24.7% and did not run in 2022.

  • MacKillop – Nick McBride is a second success story. Held the South East seat where there was a 5.8% Primary vote swing. But One Nation 8.1%, Family First 5.0% and Nationals 4.8% represents a fair protest on Vaccine Mandates and Life issues a total of 17.9%.

Liberal Electorates lost to Independents:

  • Finniss – David Basham was Primary Industries Minister and was not widely regarded in that role. Independent Lou Nicholson has turned another rural seat away from the Liberals. Family First, One Nation and Nationals only reached 8.2% collectively and their preferences saved this seat by a fraction from Labor winning it but cost Basham victory as he could have won with those preferences. He voted with Vicki Chapman against life issues.

  • Hammond – At time of writing long term Liberal Adrian Pederick is clinging on to holding the seat. It was last an in an Independents hands when Peter Lewis joined the Liberal defection in 2002. Now the Independent Airlee Keen is very close. The telling statistic here is that Family First and One Nation preferencing Pederick because he stood for life issues and he will hold this unlike Basham.

  • Flinders – At time of publication the Liberal Candidate Sam Telfer was in trouble. The Independent Liz Haberman was preference by Family First before Liberal due to Peter Treloars position against life.

Seats held by Liberals who stood for life:

  • Black – David Spiers polled nearly 50% of primary and with no SA Best it is a good hold and a success story for the Libs at this election. No Family First candidate. Spiers who was vocal in support of life issues holds seat.

  • Morphett – Stephen Patterson held this seat with a swing to the Libs from SA Best votes but increased his own primary vote which was another success story on the night. Patterson was the Trade Minister and will get a Shadow promotion and is good leadership material.

  • Schubert – The newly elected Ashton Hurn may not hold the same life views of her predecessor Stephan Knoll.

  • Colton – Generally the Liberal member stood for life and won. May have been lucky no Family First candidate ran.

  • Hartley – likely hold at time of writing

  • Hammond – likely hold at time of writing paper (see discussion on Basham comparative)

Seats retained by Independents who voted for life:

  • Kavel – Polled more than 50% first preference and strongly supported life issues. No Family First but One Nation preferences helped margin 3.6% of vote.

  • Mt Gambier – Likewise, Troy Bell enjoyed strong support from Family First Preferences of 5.7%.

  • Narrunga – Was able to stand against own former party and comfortably hold the seat despite travel allowance scandal. 10.6% of vote to One Nation, Family First and National but a second Independent at 8.6%. As Fraser Ellis stood for life in all three categories (Abortion, Euthanasia, Prostitution) he enjoyed those preferences which put him well in front of the Liberal candidate.

  • Stuart – Geoff Brock and Dan Van Holst both voted for life but the Liberal lost due to redistribution and enormous popularity of long standing independent. One Nation got 5.6%. No Family First or Nationals candidates

Liberals Independent who lost seat but voted for life:

  • Waite – Sam Dulek. Mitigating circumstances on alleged parliament indiscretion and a second strong former Mayoral independent made this had for Dulek. A blue ribbon Liberal seat falls to Labor on the back of second independent and Greens preferences supporting the notion that disunity is death in politics.

Liberals who lost seats but voted for life:

  • Stuart – Dan van Holst Pellekaan must be the most unlucky Liberal of the election. Did nothing wrong as a performer in the house but while courageously supporting life issues with his votes for life, was conspicuous as a non-performer in publicly defending his conscience. Lost seat to a ‘conservative’ independent in Brock at a time when the Liberals were savaged in the regions by Independents.

Conclusion

While the election in Adelaide saw the swinging seats in Adelaide’s northeastern areas go to Labor as part of an overall swing, the Life issues campaign to preference against Liberal and Labor sitting members who voted against life had a tangible effect.


The big gains for Labor in the regions are that they don’t face strong Liberal Party members any more and that most seats in the regions and in blue ribbon Adelaide are now marginal.


The big issue in the regions for the Liberals is that while Labor is not strong there (except in Giles), the remainder of seats are split by conservative independents and an emerging group of Labor leaning Independents in seats like Finnis, Hammond, and possibly Flinders and Frome (or in 4 years time). The key issue for the Liberals was not a basketball stadium or country health or even a car race in the parklands, but whether the Conservative life leaning voters trusted their Liberal candidates and the answer is that they didn’t and preferencing of Labor or another independent instead swung this election.

Finally, Liberal and Liberal Independents who stood for life are now in the majority in that part of the SA electorate. The losses of Liberal seats were greater focussed among members who voted against life.


The Liberal movement in South Australia must return to candidates who stand for life and look to repeal legislation with other independents and ALP members on conscience. The Liberals must also better define their policy on issues like Climate Change from a conservative perspective and create policy in the regions that fixes Roads, Hospitals and provides better Education outcomes otherwise Labor will consign them to opposition for another 16 years.